India: The Delhi High Court Finds No Reason To Interfere With Decisions Of The IPAB And The Deputy Registrar Of Trademarks

Last Updated: 17 August 2011
Article by Sonam Lhamu Bhutia

The case of Champagne Moet and Chandon vs. Union of India & Ors .was an appeal by Champagne Moet (Petitioner), against an order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) which dismissed Champagne Moet's appeal against an order passed by the Deputy Registrar of Trademarks (DR).

The Petitioner, in this case is a company established under the laws of France and is a well- known manufacturer of wines which are sold under the trademark "MOET, MOET & CHANDON". The Respondent is M/s Moet's, a partnership firm, dealing in meat, fish, poultry, and meat extracts.

The Court noted as a significant point that the Respondent had earlier also applied for registration of the mark "MOET'S" under class 16 in respect of paper and paper products. The petitioner had opposed this, however their opposition had been dismissed by the DR, and there had been no subsequent appeal against the said order.

The Petitioner alleged that the adoption of the mark "MOET" by the Respondent as its trading style or as a trademark was fraudulent and dishonest, particularly so because they had used two dots on the letter "E". It was further stated that the Respondent had copied the essential features of the Petitioner's trademark. The Petitioner contended further that even if the Respondent were to remove the two dots over the letter "E", the mark currently used by them was different from the one which they had been granted registration for. Another line of argument that the Petitioners took was that their product i.e. wine and the Respondent product (food) were both table products, therefore the trade channel was common. Next, it was contended that the mere fact that the Petitioner had been unsuccessful to challenge the grant of registration of the trademark "MOET'S" under Class 16 did not make much difference because the Respondent had at no point commercially sold any products under class 16. Lastly, it was contended that there was no acquiescence on the part of the Petitioner as it had opposed the application of the Respondent, as and when they had first become aware of it.

In reply, the Respondent drew a distinction between infringement and registration proceedings under the Trademark Act, 1958. It was pointed out that Section 12(3) TM Act, 1958 permitted the Registrar to grant registration of identical marks in favour of more than one proprietor if there was honest and concurrent use of identical marks in relation to the "same goods or description of goods". It was submitted that the Respondent had successfully made out a case for grant of registration on the ground of honest and concurrent use as well as the existence of special circumstances in terms of Section 12 (3) TM Act.

In the light of the concurrent findings of the DR and the IPAB, the Delhi High Court was not inclined to exercise its powers of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution. The DR had concluded that while the sales figures furnished by the Respondent had been supported by invoices and other correspondences, the Petitioners had not produced any satisfactory evidence of use prior to 1980. The IPAB had similarly found that "there was absolutely no evidence or material on record to establish that the appellant's products are openly available in the market in India which alone would establish the goodwill and reputation of the appellant in the trade". Another significant aspect was that all of the documents produced by the Petitioner referred to the Trademark as a composite mark "MOET & CHANDON" and not "MOET" alone.

The Court further noted that the argument of the Petitioner that the trade channels of both the parties was same could not be accepted, as wines are sold in bars as well. On the question of acquiescence, the Court stated that the contention that a dishonest adoption of a mark would not entitle the Respondent to raise the defence of acquiescence was not tenable in view of the finding that the use of the mark by the Respondent was not dishonest.

Thus, based on the abovementioned reasons, the Delhi High Court found no reason to interfere with the impugned order of the IPAB. The petition was therefore dismissed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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