India: Confusion as a Ground for Trademark Infringement

Last Updated: 28 July 2010

Trademarks are distinguishing devices used by businesses to distinguish their goods and services from those produced by others. Confusion is one of the main grounds for a trademark infringement claim. Infringement by confusion can involve-Confusion between related products, Confusion as to source,Confusion as to sponsorship, Initial interest confusion etc. The present case Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. V. Equal Minerals & Anr. 2010 (42) PTC 686 (Del.) decided on-24.02.2010 arises as consequence of confusion caused by a deceptively similar trademark.

Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr the plaintiff are engaged in manufacturing ang marketing of granulated sweetner under the trademark EQUAL. It is a well-known trademark in India and other countries of the world. This trademark EQUAL was regiatered in class 1,30. Equal Minerals & Anr. the defendants use the trademark EQUAL(=).the trademark was initially registered in respect of plastic auto parts. Equal Minerals & Anr. started their business under the name of M/s Narang Technoplast owned by Shri Ashok Narang. Shri Ashok Narang and his family members are carrying business in respect of plastic bottles, mineral water and plastic Auto Parts. they are using the trademark for above 20years.

Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. contendad that Equal Minerals for trademark infringement and Equal Minerals & Anr mark is s deceptively similar to their trademark. Which is causing them loss of business and reputation, they further pleaded for grant of injunction.

Equal Minerals & Anr averded that that their trademark is EQUAL with a geometrical sign of EQUAL(=) was used since July,1988.this trademark was registered by trademark registrar after a thorough research. Equal Minerals & Anr. also submitted that Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. Allegation of passing off/infringement were baseless, it is further stated that Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. Had no reputation in india neither they had copyright over design of word 'EQUAL' . It is further stated by Equal Minerals & Anr that the trademark EQUALin respect of minerals and aerated water was granted to Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr only on 20th March 2003,much after the trademark EQUAL was registered in their favour.

Equal Minerals & Anr have further argued that there is no evidence of user of trademark EQUAL by Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. in india, as all documents filed by Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr.along with the application and with the plaint showed that their product was being sold and marketed outside India viz., USA and Europe and Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr had no sale in India.It is further argued that Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr has not placed on record advertisements of its products in any newsparer or magazine in India. All advertisements placed on record are only of US and the illustrations filed are also of US. Equal Minerals & Anr stated that mere registration of trademark EQUAL in India does not amount to use of trademark in india.

Equal Minerals & Anr argued that the description of goods as well as business activities of Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr is absolutely different from their products. As the product 'Aspartame base dlow calories sweetner' by Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr is a pharmaceutical preparation and isused under medical advice only by a limited class of people i.e. diabetic patients or consumers who want to be on low calories sweetner in order to avoid putting on more body waight. Whereas the goods of qual Minerals & Anr are mineral water, and sparkling soda for general use and purpose. Their products would be available at petrol pumps,restaurants,local shops,even at traffic signals and movable-cart shops.thus it cannot be said to be identical with and deceptively similar to products Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr in any manner. Further their trademark is EQUAL with a geometrical sign of EQUAL(=).Equal Minerals & Anr claimed that their trademark was registered and hence no occasion for infringement would lie.It was further contended by Equal Minerals & Anr that Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr are not in the business of selling mineral water and sparkling soda.

In order to grant intermin infunction order XXXIX rules 1 and 2 CPC,party has to prove three elements. 1st that it has a good prima facie case,2nd incase injunction is not granted it will suffer irrepable losses and 3rd the balance of convenience lies in its favour.it can be infered by the above submissions of Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. neither of the submissions prove the three elements.

The Court held that As niether of the three elements required are proved, the honourable high court of delhi found no force in the application made by Merisant Company 2 Saral & Anr. Thus the application stands dismissed.

© Lex Orbis 2009

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