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Understanding Licensing Agreements in India: Benefits and Risks

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on April 2, 2024


In India, licensing agreements serve as the cornerstone for leveraging intellectual property assets, facilitate collaboration and drive innovation across diverse industries. These crucial agreements delineate terms, conditions and rights associated with use, distribution or exploitation of various IP assets. Their role is pivotal in shaping commercial transaction dynamics while fostering value creation within marketplace contexts. This comprehensive analysis plunges into the multifaceted landscape of licensing agreements. It explores, not only their diverse categories, but also regulatory frameworks, legal considerations and emerging trends that underpin India's intricate IP transactions.

Categories of Licenses

A spectrum of tailored arrangements, licensing agreements encompasses a vast array, meeting the specific objectives, needs and preferences of both licensors and licensees. These encompass:[1]

Exclusive License: The licensee receives exclusive rights to utilize, distribute, or commercialize the licensed IP within a specific territory or market segment; this precludes the licensor from extending similar privileges to other entities.

Non-Exclusive License: It permits multiple licensees to utilize the licensed Intellectual Property simultaneously; it does so without bestowing exclusivity nor does it impose restrictions on the licensor's ability to forge analogous agreements with other parties.

Sublease License: The sublicense empowers the licensee to grant rights or sublicense, thereby expanding the reach and distribution channels associated with licensed IP; this in turn enhances revenue streams.

Compulsory License: Statutory provisions or regulatory authorities mandate the Compulsory License, it authorizes third parties to use the licensed IP under specific conditions, addressing public health needs, promoting competition, or remedying anti-competitive practices.

Cross-License: Reciprocal agreements between parties actively exchange or share their respective IP assets; this dynamic enables mutual access, utilization, integration of proprietary technologies, patents and know-how.

Pre-Contractual Disclosure and Registration

Parties embarking on licensing agreements must prioritize pre-contractual disclosures and due diligence exercises.[2] These processes involve thoroughly assessing the validity, ownership, and scope of the licensed intellectual property. They must also evaluate the financial, legal, including potential implications for operations, this is crucial to any proposed transaction. Although not mandatory for all types of intellectual property (IP) assets, specific statutes like The Designs Act 2000 or The Patents Act 1970 prescribe registration requirements; their goal being to ensure enforceability, prioritising validity within licensing arrangements.[3]

Intellectual Property Issues

Licensing agreements may present a multitude of legal, commercial, and regulatory challenges rooted in intellectual property issues. These encompass:

Ownership Disputes: Conflicts that emerge over the ownership, title or associated rights of licensed IP due to contradictory claims, chain-of-title problems and breaches in contractual obligations, are known as Ownership Disputes.

Infringement Claims: Allegations of infringement or unauthorized use of third-party IP rights may lead to potential litigation, resulting in injunctions and damages claims against licensors, licensees, and sublicensees.

Validity & Expiry: Challenges to the validity, enforceability, or expiration of licensed IP rights may arise from changes in law, regulatory requirements, or judicial interpretations affecting the scope and duration of these rights.

Unregistered Rights: This term concerns issues related to unregistered or unprotectable intellectual property assets, notably trade secrets, confidential information, and unregistered trademarks. While these may not enjoy statutory protection, contractual safeguards are in place along with remedies under licensing agreements.

Subjects of Discussion: We address concerns related to creating, perfecting, or enforcing security interests, specifically liens and encumbrances, on licensed Intellectual Property (IP) assets. These discussions largely pertain to financing transactions, as well as mergers or acquisitions involving licensed technology or intellectual property.

Proceedings Against Third Parties and Sub-Licensing

Licensing agreements frequently incorporate provisions that address three key areas: proceedings against third parties, actions for infringement or disputes involving the licensed Intellectual Property (IP). These provisions grant power to both licensors and licensees, empowering them to seek legal remedies, damages, or injunctive relief from infringers; competitors or any unauthorized users. Sublicensing clauses also play a crucial role in this dynamic arrangement by clearly outlining rights associated with sublicensing arrangements along with their corresponding responsibilities and limitations.[4] This meticulous stipulation ensures not only compliance but also adherence to contractual obligations; regulatory requirements and statutory provisions governing use transfer, or subjection thereof, of licensed IP rights.

First-to-File Principle and Taxation

In Indian Intellectual Property Law, the principle of "first-to-file" dictates that priority and ownership rights are bestowed upon the initial party to submit a valid application for IP protection. this includes patents, trademarks or designs. However, compliance with statutory requirements and procedural formalities is necessary. The taxation implications linked to licensing agreements differ depending on several factors: these include transaction nature, type of involved IP as well as each party's tax residency status. Henceforth, careful consideration not only becomes advisable but imperative when approaching tasks such as tax planning structuring and ensuring compliance with an aim towards mitigating potential risks liabilities arising from any given licensing arrangement(s).[5]

Software Licensing and Termination Provisions

Software licensing agreement is a subset of IP licensing: these govern the utilization, distribution, and commercialization of software products; they encompass applications or technologies. These agreements incorporate provisions pertaining to various facets from licensing models and usage restrictions to royalties, maintenance support conditions and termination terms. Termination provisions specifically outline three key components: circumstances for terminating a license agreement, procedures associated with this action, and finally, the repercussions resulting from such terminations. The delineation is comprehensive, encompassing breach of contract situations, non-payment issues even insolvency or bankruptcy can trigger it. Moreover, there exists an option where both parties agree on mutual termination which also falls under this provision. Additionally, if one party wishes to terminate without facing legal consequences, they must strictly adhere to the prescribed remedies and liabilities outlined in their respective contracts for an 'exit strategy' upon termination by either the licensor or licensee (provided it is legally binding).

Bankruptcy Considerations and Ethical Practices

In licensing agreements, it's imperative to proactively consider the implications of bankruptcy. This involves assessing how insolvency proceedings, liquidation, or restructuring may impact the rights, obligations, and available remedies for licensors, licensees, and even third-party creditors. We also prioritize implementing safeguards, whether they involve protections or contingency plans, to mitigate potential risks arising from financial instability, operational disruptions, or legal liabilities tied directly to a company's state of bankruptcy. By emphasizing ethical practices such as fair dealing, negotiations in good faith, transparency, and demonstrating respect for IP rights, we not only uphold integrity but also promote trustworthiness and sustainability within our agreement framework. This approach fosters enduring partnerships with stakeholders and enhances credibility within the industry amidst the continuously evolving landscape of intellectual property transactions.


In conclusion, the analysis underscores the multifaceted and dynamic nature of licensing agreements in India. This domain entails a multitude of legal, commercial, and regulatory intricacies, encompassing the creation, protection, negotiation, enforcement, and termination of IP assets. Successful navigation of these complexities demands diligence, expertise, and foresight from stakeholders. By doing so, they can unleash the full potential of intellectual property, stimulate innovation, promote collaboration, and ultimately cultivate sustainable value in an environment characterized by ongoing evolution in IP transactions.


[2] All Kinds of License Agreement Templates Download. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Weston, B. (2019, March 21). Product Licensing for Beginners. Retrieved from

[4] Getting Started as an Entrepreneur/Plan/Licensing as Part of the Plan. (2019, April 29). Retrieved from

[5] Purvis, S. A. (n.d.). Basics of Patent Protection. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from

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