India: Shape Of A Bottle Under Trademark Scanner

Last Updated: 21 November 2012
Article by Kamakhya Srivastava

What's in a shape of a bottle! It may be a common rhetoric but certainly worth a lot when the shape of bottles is considered distinctive and forms an intrinsic part of the goodwill and reputation. Lately, the shape of a bottle of Vodka, in a quia timet action raised a controversy with Gorbatschow Wodka KG (plaintiff)contending that the shape of its bottles of Vodka is distinctive and forms an intrinsic part of its goodwill and reputation and that John Distillers Limited (defendant) has invaded its intellectual property rights by adopting a deceptive variation of the shape of the bottles thereby leading to a substantial portion of the purchasing public to assume that the product of the defendant has emanated from or has some connection with the plaintiff. (Gorbatschow Wodka KG Vs. John Distilleries Limited Notice of Motion No 3463 of 2010 in Suit No 3046 of 2010; Bombay High Court). The plaintiff's prayer under the Notice of Motion was to restrain the defendant, pending the hearing and final disposal of the suit, from using the objectionable bottle and/or any other shape identical/deceptively similar to the plaintiff's shape of the bottle upon and in relation to its product/business whatsoever so as to pass off its goods as that of the plaintiff.

Under the Trade Marks Act 1999, the shape of goods is now statutorily recognized as being a constituent element of a trademark. Section 2(zb) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, define the expression "trademark" to mean "a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others" and to include "shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours". The legislature has therefore statutorily recognized that the shape in which goods are marketed, their packaging and combination of colours form part of what is described as the trade dress. A manufacturer who markets a product may assert the distinctive nature of the goods sold in terms of the unique shape through which the goods are offered for sale. Also in a number of judgments, the law has recognized the importance of the shape in which trader sells his goods. In Kemp and Company Vs Prima Plastics Ltd 2000 PTC (20) 96 (Bom) the court considered an action where the defendants were alleged to have infringed the registered design of a chair manufactured by the plaintiff and for passing off by the defendants by adopting a similar design shape and configuration. The court cited – "There may, indeed be cases where an article itself is shaped in an unusual way, not primarily for the purpose of giving some benefit in use or for any other practical purposes but capriciously in order purely to give the article a distinctive appearance characteristic of that particular manufacturer's goods. In such the manufacturer might be able, in the course of time, to establish that he has a reputation and goodwill in the distinctive appearance of the article itself, which will give him a cause of action in passing off if his goods were copied. In those circumstances, the putting of a copy on to the market with the distinctive feature or combination of features in question would amount to a misrepresentation that it emanated from the plaintiff.

Thus the test is whether the shape that has been adopted by the plaintiff is one, which is adopted capriciously, purely to give the article a distinctive appearance or characteristic of the goods. If that is so, the plaintiff may be able to establish that he has a reputation and goodwill in the distinctive appearance of the article itself, which could provide him a cause of action in passing off.

In the present case, the Court after perusal of the material on record observed that there are several circumstances, which must be equally placed in the balance by the Court for the purposes of injunctive relief.

First, the plaintiff has prima facie established both a trans-border reputation as well as a reputation in the market in India and the fact that the unique shape of the bottle is an important element in tracing the source of origin of the product to the plaintiff.

Second, the shape of goods and their packaging, under Trade Marks Act 1999, is statutorily recognized as a constituent element of a trademark as distinguishing the goods or services of a person with those of others.

Third, the defendant did not dispute the submission of the plaintiff that no other manufacturer either globally or in India has adopted the shape of the bottle of the plaintiff (except for the defendant).

Fourth, the shape adopted by the plaintiff is unique to the point of being capricious and also that the shape of the bottle, which the plaintiff has adopted has no functional relationship with the nature of the product or the quality required of the container in which Vodka has to be sold. Also the defendant has no plausible or bona fide explanation for adopting a shape, which is strikingly similar. The Court observed that prima facie a comparison of the shape of the bottle adopted by the defendant with the bottle of the plaintiff would show a striking similarity.

And fifth, the attempt of the defendant if it is allowed would result in diluting the distinctiveness and exclusivity of the mark of the plaintiff, which has an essential ingredient, the distinctive shape of the bottle in which Vodka is sold. This would only embolden other infringers to invade upon the proprietary rights of the plaintiff and would ultimately result in a destruction of the goodwill associated with the mark of the plaintiff.

The averment of the defendant that being owner of a design registration for the bottle under Designs Act, 2000 is of significance in the sense that the registration was granted only on the authority's satisfaction that there was no other identical or similar design, did not find favour with the Court for the reason that an existing Design registration does not impinge the right of the plaintiff to move an action for passing off. Section 27(2) of the Trade Marks Act 1999 provides that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to affect the right of action against any person for passing off goods or services. Section 27(2) is a statutory recognition of the principle that the remedy of passing off lies and is founded in common law.

The Court concluded by making absolute the terms of prayer in the Notice of Motion while saying that the plaintiff in the present circumstances has made out a strong prima facie case for grant of injunction and the Court would not be justified in being astute to presume that that the defendant would not succeed in doing what he has strained every nerve to do.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions