Tata Sons (Plaintiff) in the case of Tata Sons v. Greenpeace
International claimed a decree for permanent injunction and
damages against Greenpeace International (Defendant No.1) for
it's alleged use of the Plaintiff's "TATA"
Tata Sons is India's oldest and largest private sector
employer consisting of over 100 major operating companies, 28 of
which are public limited companies. The revenue generated by it,
within India is equivalent to 2.1% of India's GDP at current
market price. It was stated by the Plaintiff that it had been
continuously and consistently using the trademark "TATA"
which is a rare and distinctive patronymic name possessing the
distinctiveness of an invented word.
The main issue in this case involved the Dhamra Port Company
Limited (DPCL), a 50-50 joint venture of Larsen and Tourbo Limited
and Tata Steel Limited. DPCL was awarded a concession by the
Government of Orissa to build and operate a port, north of river
Dhamra. The Indian affiliate of Greenpeace International, a non
profit organization with a presence in 40 countries across Europe,
Greenpeace India (Defendant No.2), raised concerns about the
alleged probable dangers to the nesting and breeding of Olive
Ridley Turtles by the proposed port.
Tata Sons alleged that Greenpeace India had made an online game
tilted "TURTLE v. TATA" and had, as such, unauthorizedly,
used their trademark "TATA" as well as the "T"
within a circle device. The plaintiff further claimed that such use
amounted to defamation and was backed by a motive to damage its
reputation . The plaintiff based its arguments on the lines that
right to free speech cannot be construed as a license to publish
defamatory matter and tarnish one's image beyond repair. The
plaintiff also argued that the use of "T" device and the
"TATA" mark, although, not in course of trade, amounted
to trademark dilution if one were to apply the test evolved in the
Greenpeace India in their response stated that the present law
suit was a strategic law suit against public participation,
intending to silence, censor and intimidate the defendants who are
concerned with the negative impact of the Dhamra port project. They
urged, that in view of significant threats to nearby protected
areas and costal communities, they had been highlighting the
concerns through peaceful and non violent methods. They further
explained that the impugned Pac-Man inspired video game named
"TURTLE v TATA"
was designed as a creative, peaceful and non-confrontational
platform to draw attention to the threat that the Olive Ridley Sea
Turtles were facing .
Greenpeace India submitted that the use of the "TATA"
trademark and 'T' device did not amount to infringement of
trade mark as it was not a commercial use. Moreover, it was
submitted that the reference to the word "DEMONS" was
only made with a view to emphasize and drive home the point that
development through the project was just like a "DEMON"
threatening the existence and survival of the Olive Ridley
The Delhi High Court after considering the arguments on both
sides held that the use of a trademark as the object of critical
comment, or even attack ,does not necessarily result in
infringement. Sometimes the same mark may be used, as in
Esso; sometimes it may be a parody
(Laughit Off and Louis
Vuitton). If the users intention is to focus on some
activity of the trademark owners, and is "denominative",
drawing attention of the reader or viewer to the activity, such use
can prima facie constitute "due cause" under Section 29
(4), which would disentitle the plaintiff to a temporary
injunction, as in this case. The use of TATA, and the `T device or
logo, was clearly denominative. Similarly, describing the Tatas as
having demonic attributes was hyperbolic and parodic. The court
further held that the issue which the defendant sought to address
is one of public concern and thus granting an injunction in favour
of the Plaintiff would freeze the entire public debate on the
effect of the project on the Olive Ridley turtles habitat. Thus,
Tata Sons application for interim injunction was dismissed.
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