The Indian Patent Office granted Kanishk Sinha and Lipika Das Sinha Patent No. 254875 on 28.12.2012 w.e.f. 02.05.2005 for technology related to battery operated electric rickshaws that run on the energy created by a chemical reaction between zinc and oxygen, thereby acting as a means of pollution free transportation. The patent was titled “a fuel cell system and an efficient eco-friendly vehicle mounted with fuel cell system” and was valid for a period of twenty years ending on 01.05.2025.
At various instances in the past decade, the patentee had initiated court proceedings for the enforcement of their patent rights. Perhaps the most popular is the Writ Petition filed against Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, after he distributed e-rickshaws belonging to a prohibited brand, in view of the patent held by Kanish Sinha and the monopoly offered by it. Kanish Sinha founded a company named Jasper Motors Pvt. Ltd. in the year 2010 under whose name manufacturing, marketing and selling of their patented e-rickshaws has been carried out since. In 2014, Jasper Motors instituted an infringement suit against Basantee Battery Operated Rickshaw and others, and secured an injunction in its favour. In 2017 the Court heard an application for recall of the injunction as the Original Defendant No. 2 claimed that the patent held by Jasper is liable to be revoked on the following grounds:
- Anticipation by prior art document
- Invention claimed was obvious and lacked inventive step
- complete specification does not sufficiently and fairly describe the invention
- subject of claims 1 to 5 is not an invention within the meaning of the Act and is not patentable
During the proceedings, the HC was prima facie satisfied that the patent ws not valid. An important determination was that the patent seemed to have not been used in India. The Court reiterated a previous ruling that “a plaintiff who has registered patent in India but has not used them in India cannot in equity seek temporary injunction against the respondent.”
It is interesting that even in spite of such a blow to his patent rights, Kanishk Sinha had contended before the SC that he should be recognised as the sole facilitator for registration of battery operated rickshaws in India, since he held the patent for the relevant technology. In a curious turn of events, the SC granted the relief prayed for and ruled that all registration of e-vehicles be stopped across the country. It is to be noted that a company named Amit Engineering has further licensed the rights from Kanishk Sinha meaning that after this order by the SC, buyers of the e-vehicle will have to turn to Amit Engineering for registration. It is befuddling that a private property who holds the patent to a technology has claimed monopoly over a government mandated registration process and the Apex Court has accepted the same. Meanwhile, the SC has stopped the registration of e-rickshaws across the country from 24.02.2021 except through the services of Amit Engineering who in turn is a licencee of Kanish Sinha. Normally, a patent only secures for its owner exclusive rights to manufacture, market and sell the product, or in case of a process patent perform the process for the making of a product. It remains to see what the reasoning offered by the Court was, to justify this seemingly untenable decision.