Friday, March 9, 2012

American Tobacco v Director of Patents G.R. No. L-26803 October 14, 1975

J. Antonio
Petition for mandamus with preliminary injunction

Petitioners challenge the validity of Rule 168 of the "Revised Rules of Practice before the Philippine Patent Office in Trademark Cases" as amended, authorizing the Director of Patents to designate any ranking official of said office to hear "inter partes" proceedings.
The rule also provides that "all judgments determining the merits of the case shall be personally and directly prepared by the Director and signed by him." These proceedings refer to the hearing of opposition to the registration of a mark or trade name, interference proceeding instituted for the purpose of determining the question of priority of adoption and use of a trade-mark, trade name or service-mark, and cancellation of registration of a trade-mark or trade name pending at the Patent Office.
The petitioners were parties in certain opposition, interference and cancellation proceedings.
Under the Trade-mark Law (Republic Act No. 166 ), the Director of Patents is vested with jurisdiction over the above-mentioned cases.
The Rules of Practice in Trade-mark Cases were drafted and promulgated by the Director of Patents and approved by the then Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce.
Subsequently, the Director of Patents, with the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, amended on of the rules of practice, namely Rule 168, to read as follows:
168. Original Jurisdiction over inter partes proceedings. — The Director of Patents shall have original jurisdiction over inter partes proceedings, [In the event that the Patent Office is provided with an Examiner of Interferences, this Examiner shall then have the original jurisdiction over these cases, instead of the Director. In the case that the Examiner of Interferences takes over the original jurisdiction over inter partes proceedings, his final decisions shall be subject to appeal to the Director of Patents within three months of the receipt of notice decision. Such appeals shall be governed by Sections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 22 of Rule 41 of the Rules of Court insofar as said sections are applicable and appropriate, and the appeal fee shall be [P25.00.] Such inter partes proceedings in the Philippine Patent Office under this Title shall be heard before the Director of Patents, any hearing officer, or any ranking official designated by the Director, but all judgments determining the merits of the case shall be personally and directly prepared by the Director and signed by him. (amendment italicized)
In accordance with the amended Rule, the Director of Patents delegated the hearing of petitioners' cases to hearing officers, the other respondents.
Petitioners filed their objections to the authority of the hearing officers to hear their cases, alleging that the amendment of the Rule is illegal and void because under the law the Director must personally hear and decide inter partes cases. Said objections were overruled by the Director of Patents, hence, the present petition for mandamus, to compel The Director of Patents to personally hear the cases of petitioners.

Issue: Was the procedural amendment unconstitutional?

Held: No. Petition dismissed.

It would take an extremely narrow reading of the powers of the Director of Patents under the general law 2 and Republic Acts Nos. 165 3 and 166 3* to sustain the contention of petitioners.
Section 78 of the same Act also empowers "the Director, subject to the approval of the Department Head," to "promulgate the necessary rules and regulations, not inconsistent with law, for the conduct of all business in the Patent Office." The aforecited statutory authority undoubtedly also applies to the administration and enforcement of the Trade-mark Law.
It has been held that power-conferred upon an administrative agency to which the administration of a statute is entrusted to issue such regulations and orders as may be deemed necessary or proper in order to carry out its purposes and provisions maybe an adequate source of authority to delegate a particular function, unless by express provisions of the Act or by implication it has been withheld.
There is no provision either in Republic Act No. 165 or 166 negating the existence of such authority, so far as the designation of hearing examiners is concerned. Nor can the absence of such authority be fairly inferred from contemporaneous and consistent Executive interpretation of the Act.
The nature of the power and authority entrusted to The Director of Patents suggests that the aforecited laws should be construed so as to give the aforesaid official the administrative flexibility necessary for the prompt and expeditious discharge of his duties in the administration of said laws. As such officer, he is required, among others, to determine the question of priority in patent interference proceedings, decide applications for reinstatement of a lapsed patent, cancellations of patents under Republic Act No. 165, inter partes proceedings such as oppositions, claims of interference, and cancellation cases under the Trade-mark Law.
It could hardly be expected, in view of the magnitude of his responsibility, to require him to hear personally each and every case pending in his Office. This would leave him little time to attend to his other duties. For him to do so and at the same time attend personally to the discharge of every other duty or responsibility imposed upon his Office by law would not further the development of orderly and responsible administration. The reduction of existing delays in regulating agencies requires the elimination of needless work at top levels.
Unnecessary and unimportant details often occupy far too much of the time and energy of the heads of these agencies and prevent full and expeditious consideration of the more important issues. the remedy is a far wider range of delegations to subordinate officers. This sub-delegation of power has been justified by "sound principles of organization" which demand that "those at the top be able to concentrate their attention upon the larger and more important questions of policy and practice, and their time be freed, so far as possible, from the consideration of the smaller and far less important matters of detail.
Thus, it is well-settled that while the power to decide resides solely in the administrative agency vested by law, this does not preclude a delegation of the power to hold a hearing on the basis of which the decision of the administrative agency will be made.
The rule that requires an administrative officer to exercise his own judgment and discretion does not preclude him from utilizing, as a matter of practical administrative procedure, the aid of subordinates to investigate and report to him the facts, on the basis of which the officer makes his decisions.
On due process:
It is sufficient that the judgment and discretion finally exercised are those of the officer authorized by law. Neither does due process of law nor the requirements of fair hearing require that the actual taking of testimony be before the same officer who will make the decision in the case. As long as a party is not deprived of his right to present his own case and submit evidence in support thereof, and the decision is supported by the evidence in the record, there is no question that the requirements of due process and fair trial are fully met.
In short, there is no abnegation of responsibility on the part of the officer concerned as the actual decision remains with and is made by said officer. It is, however, required that to "give the substance of a hearing, which is for the purpose of making determinations upon evidence the officer who makes the determinations must consider and appraise the evidence which justifies them."
In the case at bar, while the hearing officer may make preliminary rulings on the myriad of questions raised at the hearings of these cases, the ultimate decision on the merits of all the issues and questions involved is left to the Director of Patents. Apart from the circumstance that the point involved is procedural and not jurisdictional, petitioners have not shown in what manner they have been prejudiced by the proceedings.

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