Trademark Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution in India

Alternative Dispute Resolution in India offers a transformative approach to resolving legal disputes, providing a faster, more cost-effective, and confidential way to settle conflicts, particularly in the realm of intellectual property. In the bustling marketplace of ideas and innovation, a trademark stands as a beacon, guiding consumers to the shores of their favourite brands. This symbol, be it a logo, phrase, or design, is not just a mark but a story—a narrative of quality, trust, and origin that distinguishes the creations of one inventor from another.

For the owner, a trademark is a treasure chest, safeguarding the essence of their brand’s identity and ensuring that the golden reputation they’ve built remains untarnished by the pirates of the industry. Protecting this treasure is paramount; without it can lead to confusion among consumers and dilute the value of the brand.

A trademark dispute arises when one party uses a mark that is identical or deceptively similar to another party’s registered trademark, leading to confusion among consumers and potential infringement of trademark rights. The traditional route for resolving such disputes has been through litigation in courts.

However, given the backlog of cases and the time-consuming nature of court proceedings in India, there has been a paradigm shift towards ADR mechanisms, including mediation, arbitration, and conciliation, to resolve trademark disputes efficiently and amicably. These approaches allow both sides to discuss and resolve their issues quietly, without spending a lot of time and money in legal battles.

ADR, in the realm of trademark disputes, is akin to negotiating on the deck of diplomacy rather than duelling on the docks of the courthouse. It allows parties to decide on mutual agreements. This process not only keeps the dispute from the public eye, preserving the brand’s image but also fosters an atmosphere where business relationships can be mended and even strengthened post-conflict.

By choosing ADR, businesses embark on a voyage towards a resolution that is efficient, less adversarial, and tailored to maintaining the integrity of the brand, ensuring that the trademark continues to exist proudly and distinctively.

Benefits of Mediation and ADR in Trademark Disputes

The shift towards mediation and ADR for resolving trademark disputes in India is driven by numerous benefits:

  • Efficiency and Time-Saving: ADR mechanisms significantly reduce the time taken to resolve disputes compared to traditional court litigation, enabling businesses to focus on their operations without prolonged legal battles
  • Cost-Effectiveness: The costs associated with mediation and other ADR processes are generally lower than those of litigation, making it an attractive option for small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Confidentiality: ADR processes are confidential, ensuring that the details of the dispute and its resolution are not made public, thus protecting the brand image and business secrets.
  • Preservation of Relationships: Mediation, in particular, focuses on collaborative problem-solving and can help preserve business relationships that might be damaged through adversarial litigation processes.
  • Flexibility and Control: Parties have more control over the process and outcome in ADR, allowing for creative solutions tailored to the specific needs of the disputing parties.

The Indian Legal Framework for ADR in Trademark Disputes

The legal framework in India supports the use of ADR for resolving trademark disputes. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, provides the legal basis for arbitration and conciliation. Meanwhile, the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, encourages the use of mediation for the resolution of commercial disputes, including those related to trademarks.

The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 also provides for the adoption of different models for the expeditious determination of disputes. The Indian judiciary has effectively tried to bring mediation and settlement for intellectual property disputes in the traditional model of litigation, through the reading of Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

Further, section 62 of the Copyright Act, 1957, section 134 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and section 104 of the Indian Patent Act, 1999 do not oust the possibility of ADR in IPR matters and the rules thereunder, contemplate the use of ADR mechanisms in trademark disputes, although it does not mandate their use.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that arbitration plays a significant part in the expedited process for dispute resolution established by the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, 1999, and the Indian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy in situations of cybersquatting.

Judicial Interpretation

Encouraging the ADR process, the Delhi High Court ordered the adoption of a procedure known as early neutral evaluation in an intellectual property lawsuit in a landmark decision in the case of Bawa Masala Co. vs Bawa Masala Co. Pvt. Ltd. and Anr, where a number of legal disputes had already been settled through an alternate dispute resolution process.

In the case of Vidya Drolia vs Durga Trading Corporation, the Supreme Court propounded a fourfold test to determine if the subject matter of a dispute in an arbitration agreement is not arbitrable and included when cause of action and subject-matter of the dispute relates to actions in rem. Thus, holding the claim of infringement against a particular person as a subordinate right in personam, the Court considered it arbitrable in the case of Deccan Mills v. Regency Mahavir Properties.

The Apex Court in V.H. Patel & Co. v. Hirubhai Himabhai Patel held that ousting arbitrability, in the face of an arbitration clause, is not something to be lightly assumed. It must be done in limited cases which are clearly non-arbitrable. As reiterated in Hero Electric Vehicles Private Limited and Ors. vs. ELectro E-mobility Private Limited and Ors as well, when the disputes pertaining to IPR arise from a contract between the parties, they are arbitrable.


The resolution of trademark disputes through mediation and ADR mechanisms offers a promising avenue for businesses in India to protect their intellectual property rights efficiently and amicably. By embracing these alternative dispute resolution methods, stakeholders can save time and resources, preserve business relationships, and foster a more collaborative and innovation-friendly business environment.

As India continues to evolve as a global hub for business and innovation, the role of mediation and ADR in trademark disputes is set to become increasingly important, marking a significant shift in the landscape of intellectual property dispute resolution in the country

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