Monsanto Company v. Competition Commission of India & Ors

J. Sagar Associates (JSA) advised and represented Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. and its group companies (collectively, NSL Group) before the Delhi High Court (DHC) in a Writ Petition filed by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt. Ltd. (MMBL) and its group companies (collectively, ‘Monsanto’) challenging an order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) directing an investigation against Monsanto (Prima Facie Order).

In December 2015, the NSL Group filed a complaint before the CCI alleging abuse of dominant position by Monsanto in licensing of Bt. Technology to NSL Group, which led to the initiation of an investigation by the CCI.

Aggrieved by the Prima Facie Order, in March 2016, Monsanto approached the DHC, inter alia alleging that the CCI does not have jurisdiction to examine the issues related to the exercise of rights granted under the Patents Act, 1970 (Patents Act) as the Patent Controller has the necessary jurisdiction. Relying on the Supreme Court judgment in CCI v. Bharti Airtel Ltd. And Ors., Monsanto also contended that the CCI can only exercise its jurisdiction once the Patent Controller has concluded on the jurisdictional facts.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the DHC dismissed the petition and held that there is no irreconcilable repugnancy or conflict between the Competition Act, 2002 and the Patents Act, as to oust the  jurisdiction of the CCI. He also noted that the Competition Act is not concerned with the patent rights but with the exercise of such rights. Further, theDHC noted that the Bharti decision dealt with the role of the Telecom Regulatory Authority, which is materially different from the role performed by the Patent Controller, and the decision is not an authority to conclude that wherever there is a statutory regulator, the complaint must be first brought before such regulator and examination of a complaint by the CCI is contingent on the findings of the such regulator.

JSA Team comprised of Partners Farhad Sorabjee and Vaibhav Choukse, Principal Associate – Ela Bali and Associate – Nripi Jolly.