The Civil society groups wrote a letter to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) protesting its participation in a trade show with the parties which are currently under investigations from CCI. The CCI is participating in the 3rd International Conference on Intellectual Property (IP) Rights and Competition Law, on 7th August at Hotel Imperial, New Delhi, organized by Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).The co-partners of the conference organised under the auspices of ASSOCHAM are Ericsson, Khaitan & Co and other private parties. Ericsson is currently facing three CCI investigations. The participation of CCI representatives including its chairman at the event raises serious concern of conflict of interest. Providing privileged access to lobbying efforts of private enterprises like Ericsson and others would cast a dark shadow on the neutrality of CCI.
This event is not an academic one. The agenda is very evident; people making presentation in the technical sessions are approaching the issue from the perspective of IP owners. It is a fact that industry never spends money without the expectation of returns. Therefore, it is very clear that this program is for the purpose of lobbying with the CCI and raises the question of corporate capture of regulatory institutions.
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The civil society letter to Chairperson of CCI, Mr. Ashok Chawala says, " The conference brochure carries CCI logo which clearly means that CCI is a co-organiser of the conference. Ericsson shown as Event Partner, Khaithan & Co as Knowledge Partner, SSL&C as Legal Partner and International Trademark Association and Patent Agent Association are as Supporting Partners. Ericsson is not only an event partner but also giving a speech at the inaugural session. Brochure explicit partnership/sponsorship is based on payment of money. The Chairman of the CCI is delivering the Inaugural Address. Two members of CCI are chairing the two technical sessions and one more member is giving a special address at the valedictory function. CCI sharing dais with private enterprises would compromise the credibility and independence of CCI."
The letter emphasises, " The themes of the conference clearly fall under the on-going investigations of CCI against Ericsson. Participation of CCI in any form in a conference organized by the financial support of Ericsson would clearly send out a wrong message regarding the integrity and independence of CCI. The judicial and quasi-judicial bodies never directly or indirectly discuss matters which are pending before them. They are expected to avoid not only actual conflict of interest but also the perceived conflict of interest. The conference is centered on discussing issues that are currently under the investigation of CCI. The participation of CCI in any form in the conference on IPR and Competition Law along with set of private parties will be definitely a deviation from the said practice. There is a threat that CCI will be influenced by the commercial entities including Ericsson."
Following organisations are co-signatories to the letter' to the CCI:
Alternate Law Forum, Bangalore
Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore
IT For Change, Bangalore
Knowledge Commons Collective, New Delhi
National Working Group on Patent Laws, New Delhi
Software Freedom Law Centre, New Delhi