[Ip-health] Competition Commission of India chairman's participation in Assocham conference raises conflict of interests

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Wed Aug 5 22:50:57 PDT 2015

Competition Commission of India chairman's participation in Assocham
conference raises conflict of interests
NEW DELHI: The chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and
three of the six commission members are participating in a conference
organised by Assocham and sponsored by private companies like Ericsson,
trade associations and two legal firms specialising in intellectual
property cases. This, civil society organisations argue, raises issues of
conflict of interest in a quasi-judicial body like CCI participating in a
conference organised by private parties that have cases before the

For instance, the event partner Ericsson is facing CCI investigations on
matters related to standard essential patents (SEPs), one of the conference
topics, and issues related to licensing of technologies on fair and
equitable terms. The vice president and head of the legal section of
Ericsson also has a speaking slot in the inaugural event. The brochure
clearly states that the event partner on payment of Rs 5 lakh gets several
privileges including a speaker's slot in the inaugural and business

Several civil society organisations including Alternative Law Forum, Centre
for Internet and Society and IT for Change from Bangalore, Knowledge
Commons Collective, National Working Group on Patent Laws, and Software
Freedom Law Centre from Delhi have written to the CCI protesting against
its participation in the conference.

In their letter to CCI chairperson Ashok Chawla, they pointed out that the
day-long conference titled Interface between Intellectual property (IP) and
Competition Law, being held in a five star hotel on August 7, was focusing
on issues being adjudicated by CCI. While Chawla is listed in the brochure
as giving the inaugural address, CCI members GP Mittal and MS Sahoo are
chairing two technical sessions and a third member SL Bunker is giving a
special address at the valedictory function.

Other speakers include Rajiv Aggarwal, Controller General of Patents,
Designs and Trademarks, representatives of Google, Intel, Microsoft, the UK
IP Office, senior advocates from three Indian law firms specialising in IP
and representatives of international law firms and consultancy firms.

"It is a well-set precedent that judicial and quasi-judicial bodies never
directly or indirectly discuss matters pending before them. The conference
is centred on discussing issues that are currently under the investigation
of CCI along with commercial entities, including one which is facing the
investigation," stated the letter adding that all the judicial or
quasi-judicial bodies were expected to avoid not only actual conflict of
interest but also perceived conflict of interest.

The civil society signatories pointed out that the event was not an
academic event but a commercial one organised by a chamber of commerce
along with the industry with clear commercial objectives. "The
participation of CCI in the event would compromise the credibility and
independence of CCI. Therefore, CCI as a guardian of public interest should
not be subject to the lobbying efforts of IP owners. Providing privileged
access to lobbying efforts of private enterprises like Ericsson, Qualcomm,
Microsoft and Intel would cast a dark shadow on the neutrality of CCI,"
stated the letter requesting Chawla not to participate in the conference
and to direct CCI members and CCI staff involved in investigations to avoid


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