This legal article delves into the critical question of whether the Competition
Commission of India (CCI) can inquire into the actions of a patentee who asserts
their patent rights in India. The article examines four appeals and a Writ
Petition, which collectively raise this common issue of far-reaching
The analysis revolves around the interface between patents and competition law
in India, exploring the statutory provisions and judicial precedents governing
the subject matter. The article aims to shed light on the scope and limitations
of CCI's authority under the Competition Act, 2002, when it comes to
The intersection between intellectual property rights and competition law has
been a subject of significant legal debate in various jurisdictions. In the
present case, the court dealt with four appeals and a writ petition that raised
a crucial question: Can the Competition Commission of India (CCI) inquire into
the actions of a patentee under the Competition Act?
The appeals and the petition stemmed from interventions by CCI against Ericsson
and Monsanto concerning the fixation of licensing rates on Fair, Reasonable, and
Non-Discriminatory terms and charging high royalties, respectively.
The appellants, Monsanto and Ericsson, contended that the power to inquire into
anti-competitive licensing of patents lies either with the Controller or the
Civil Court under specific provisions of the Patents Act. Ultimately, the court
allowed the appeal, asserting that the Patents Act prevails over the Competition
Act when it comes to matters of abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive
agreements by a patentee in the exercise of its rights.
Background and Context
The Competition Act, enacted to promote fair competition, prevent
anti-competitive practices, and protect consumer interests, governs
anti-competitive agreements and the abuse of dominant market position across all
On the other hand, the Patents Act is a specialized legislation that regulates
the grant, administration, and enforcement of patents, granting inventors
exclusive rights to exploit their inventions for a limited period Ericsson's
intervention before the CCI was prompted by allegations of it using its dominant
position in the market to fix exorbitant licensing rates on its terms for its
Similarly, Monsanto faced CCI intervention on the grounds of charging high
royalties for its genetically modified seeds, potentially leading to
anti-competitive practices in the agricultural sector.
The Appellants' Contention
Monsanto and Ericsson put forth the argument that the authority to inquire into
anti-competitive licensing of patents lies with either the Controller or the
Civil Court. The appellants contended that these provisions encompassed matters
related to licensing rates and any anti-competitive behavior by patentees.
The Court's Ruling
The court, in its judgment, recognized that the Competition Act is a general
legislation designed to address anti-competitive agreements and the abuse of
dominant market positions across all sectors. However, it distinguished between
general and special legislation, observing that when a specific enactment deals
with particular subject matter, it prevails over a general enactment concerning
the same subject matter.
In this context, the court held that while the Competition Act addresses broader
issues of competition and market dominance, the Patents Act is a specialized
legislation that governs the rights and obligations of patentees, including the
terms of licensing and the remedies for infringement.
Thus, when the issue at hand involves abuse of dominant position and
anti-competitive agreements by a patentee in the exercise of its rights under
the Patents Act, the Patents Act becomes the special legislation, prevailing
over the general provisions of the Competition Act.
The court's ruling in this case offers valuable clarity on the jurisdictional
overlap between the Competition Act and the Patents Act in matters concerning
patent licensing disputes.
By emphasizing the Patents Act as the specialized legislation governing
patentees' actions, the court provides a clear delineation of authority for
inquiries into anti-competitive practices related to patents.
This decision not only helps preserve the integrity of specialized IP laws but
also ensures that competition law is applied judiciously in contexts where
patent rights and licensing practices are at the heart of the dispute. Moreover,
the judgment sets a precedent for future cases involving similar issues, guiding
both the Competition Commission and patentees on their respective roles and
responsibilities in such matters.
The Case Law Discussed
Date of Judgement:13.07.2023
Case Title: Monsanto Holding Pvt.Ltd. Vs Competition Commission of India Limited
Case No: LPA No. 247 of 2016.
Name of Hon'ble Court:High Court of Delhi
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Nazmi Waziri, H.J.
Information contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same
should not be treated as substitute for legal advice as it is subject to my
subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and
presentation of the facts and law involved herein.
Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539