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Patent Litigation in India – The Case of Bajaj – TVS Dispute

The Digital Twin Spark Plug Ignition [DTS-i] technology debate between the two wheeler manufacturing giants Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors continues. The patent war has now reached the Supreme Court with Bajaj seeking a restrain on the manufacturing and selling of TVS’ two-wheeler ‘Flame’. Bajaj has sought a revocation of the Madras High Court order allowing TVS to go ahead with receiving bookings for and selling its new motorcycle.

The insurmountable to-ing and fro-ing has been in motion since September of 2007 when Bajaj alleged that TVS had infringed on its DTSi patent used in most Bajaj motorcycles. On December 19 2007, a single Bench of the High Court in an interim order restrained TVS from taking new orders for its new motorcycle, however the Bench did allow for bikes that were already booked to be delivered. TVS, on the next day, approached the court and the interim order was dismissed. Bajaj has opposed this position and the divisional Bench of the Supreme Court has said that it cannot make any decision on Bajaj’s recent request without also hearing from TVS. The date of the hearing will be on January 18.

This argument stems from the fact that Bajaj claims it holds the patent for the digital twin spark ignition (DTSi) technology, which uses two spark plugs for better fuel-efficiency and lower emissions, and that the “Flame’s” technology specifications actually infringe on its patent. TVS on the other hand, contends that its CC-VTi technology does not infringe on Bajaj’s patent because Bajaj’s patent is not for a ‘twin spark plug’ but for two spark plugs in a two-valve internal combustion engine with a detachable fixed sleeve. TVS’s internal combustion engine has three valves.

According to TVS, DTSi is actually a commonly used engine technology and should not be patented as the twin spark technology is a known ‘prior art’. It has stressed that the creation of the new three valve engine powered by controlled combustion variable timing intelligent technology [CC-VTi] in collaboration with AVL of Austria leaves no scope for imitation. But on the other hand it should not be forgotten that the Chinese manufacturer Taian Chiran Machinery Co. Ltd. and its Sri Lankan distributor were ordered by the Sri Lankan High Court to withdraw their copy of the Bajaj Pulsar with DTSi technology from the market; and so Bajaj may be banking on this.

For the moment the Supreme Court has become the focus of attention. The Chief Justice heading the bench has ruled that it cannot pass any order without hearing TVS Motors. Audi Alteram Partum, an important principle of Natural Justice meaning ‘No man can be condemned unheard’ is an important aspect of legal proceedings which seems to hold forte. This certainly reflects on the order of the single bench, Madras High Court restraining TVS from booking, distributing and selling its motorcycle ‘Flame’ and its suspension the next day by a division bench ruling requirement of a counter-affidavit to be filed by TVS Motors and detailed hearing of the matter before passing of injunction order, if any.