India: Prior Trademark Registration Is Of Meagre Consequence In Juxtaposition Of Prior Use Of Trade Mark

Last Updated: 15 March 2016
Article by Rajat Jain

Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India

In the matter of Neon Laboratories Ltd. vs. Medical Technologies Ltd. & Ors., 2015(64)PTC225(SC)1,the Supreme Court while interpreting Section 342> of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 ("Act"), has affirmed that the Proprietor of a trade mark does not have the right to prevent use by another party of an identical or similar mark where that use commenced prior to the use or trademark registration by proprietor.

That in the present case, the predecessor-in-title of the Plaintiff, has adopted and coined the trademark "PROFOL" in the year 1998, for manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical products and medicinal preparation. That after amalgamating with its predecessor-in-title on 17.2.2000, Plaintiff, Respondent No. 1 herein, became the owner of the trademark PROFOL, and has been using trademark "PROFOL" since 2000, and also applied for its registration in the aforesaid year. The Plaintiff No. 2, Respondent No. 2 herein, is a licensee of the Plaintiff No. 1.

The Defendant, Appellant herein, i.e., Neon Laboratories Ltd., had filed the application for registration of the trademark "ROFOL" in class 5 on 19.10.2012 which got registered on 14.09.2001. The Appellant has conceded that it commenced user of the trademark ROFOL only from 16.10.2004 onwards.

On becoming aware that the Defendant had introduced the same generic drug under the trademark ROFOL into market, the Plaintiffs filed a suit against the Defendant for injunction, damages and account of profits, alleging that the mark ROFOL is identical and deceptively similar to the trademark PROFOL. The Trial Court granted an ad-interim injunction in favour of the Plaintiffs. Aggrieved by the said order, the Appellant preferred an appeal which was rejected by the High Court of Gujarat. Thereafter, the Appellant has filed the present appeal in the Supreme Court of India against the Judgment of the Learned Single Judge of the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad.

While deciding the present appeal, the Hon'ble Supreme Court interpreted Section 343 of the Act and stated that the present Section palpably holds that a proprietor of a trade mark does not have the right to prevent the use by another party of an identical or similar mark where that user commenced prior to the user or date of registration of the registered proprietor. The Supreme Court observed that the "first user" rule is a seminal part of the Act and it has always enjoyed pre-eminence. It was held that the use of the trademark "PROFOL" by the predecessor-in-title of the Respondent is prior to the user of the Appellant and is even prior to the date of registration of the trademark "ROFOL" of the Appellant. 

The Supreme Court further referred to Section 474 of the Act and observed that the legislative intent of the Act is not to permit the hoarding of or appropriation of a trade mark without its utilization and the intention of the aforesaid section is to ordain that an applicant of a trademark does not have a permanent right by virtue of its application alone and such a right is lost if it is not exercised within a reasonable time. It was held that the Appellant had not used the mark ROFOL for over five years and three month after the application for registration of the said trademark was made and Appellant in a way has allowed or acquiesced in the user of the Respondents for several years.

Furthermore, Supreme Court also took into account that the litigation was initiated by the Respondents as opposed to the Appellant, who at any time could have raised the issue of Respondents using a mark similar to its registered trademark and that the Respondents have prima facie supported with proof, that they had already been using their trade mark well before the attempted user of an identical or closely similar trade mark by the Appellant.

Considering all these factors, the Supreme Court held that the Respondents had made out a prima facie case and the two other factors in an interim injunction, namely the balance of convenience and an irreparable loss, were also both in favour of the Respondents, given the potential loss of goodwill and business they could suffer should an injunction be denied, and thereafter, affirmed the decision of the Trial Court and the First Appellate Court.

At this preliminary stage of the matter, i.e. confirmation of the temporary injunction, the Supreme Court abjured itself from going into minute details of the case and adroitly left the issue that whether the situation on the date of application for registration alone would be relevant, or whether the developments in the period between this date and the date of grant of registration would have any bearing on the rights of the parties, to be appreciated by the Court before which the suit is being contested.



2 Section 34  of the Trade Marks Act, 1999

Saving for vested rights.—Nothing in this Act shall entitle the proprietor or a registered user of registered trade mark to interfere with or restrain the use by any person of a trade mark identical with or nearly resembling it in relation to goods or services in relation to which that person or a predecessor in title of his has continuously used that trade mark from a date prior—

(a) to the use of the first-mentioned trade mark in relation to those goods or services be the proprietor or a predecessor in title of his; or

(b) to the date of registration of the first-mentioned trade mark in respect of those goods or services in the name of the proprietor of a predecessor in title of his; whichever is the earlier, and the Registrar shall not refuse (on such use being proved), to register the second mentioned trade mark by reason only of the registration of the first mentioned trade mark.

3 Ibid.

4 Section 47  of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 

Removal from register and imposition of limitations on ground of non-use.—

(1) A registered trade mark may be taken off the register in respect of the goods or services in respect of which it is registered on application made in the prescribed manner to the Registrar or the Appellate Board by any person aggrieved on the ground either—

(a) that the trade mark was registered without any bona fide intention on the part of the applicant for registration that it should be used in relation to those goods or services by him or, in a case to which the provisions of section 46 apply, by the company concerned or the registered user, as the case may be, and that there has, in fact, been no bona fide use of the trade mark in relation to those goods or services by any proprietor thereof for the time being up to a date three months before the date of the application; or

(b) that up to a date three months before the date of the application, a continuous period of five years from the date on which the trade mark is actually entered in the register or longer had elapsed during which the trade mark was registered and during which there was no bona fide use thereof in relation to those goods or services by any proprietor thereof for the time being: Provided that except where the applicant has been permitted under section 12 to register an identical or nearly resembling trade mark in respect of the goods or services in question, or where the tribunal is of opinion that he might properly be permitted so to register such a trade mark, the tribunal may refuse an application under clause (a) or clause (b) in relation to any goods or services, if it is shown that there has been, before the relevant date or during the relevant period, as the case may be, bona fide use of the trade mark by any proprietor thereof for the time being in relation to—

(i) goods or services of the same description; or

(ii) goods or services associated with those goods or services of that description being goods or services, as the case may be, in respect of which the trade mark is registered.

(2) Where in relation to any goods or services in respect of which a trade mark is registered—

(a) the circumstances referred to in clause (b) of sub-section (1) are shown to exist so far as regards non-use of the trade mark in relation to goods to be sold, or otherwise traded in a particular place in India (otherwise than for export from India), or in relation to goods to be exported to a particular market outside India; or in relation to services for use or available for acceptance in a particular place in India or for use in a particular market outside India; and

(b)a person has been permitted under section 12 to register an identical or nearly resembling trade mark in respect of those goods, under a registration extending to use in relation to goods to be so sold, or otherwise traded in, or in relation to goods to be so exported, or in relation to services for use or available for acceptance in that place or for use in that country, or the tribunal is of opinion that he might properly be permitted so to register such a trade mark, on application by that person in the prescribed manner to the Appellate Board or to the Registrar, the tribunal may impose on the registration of the first-mentioned trade mark such limitations as it thinks proper for securing that registration shall cease to extend to such use.

(3) An applicant shall not be entitled to rely for the purpose of clause (b) of sub-section (1) or for the purposes of sub-section (2) on any non-use of a trade mark which is shown to have been due to special circumstances in the trade, which includes restrictions on the use of the trade mark in India imposed by any law or regulation and not to any intention to abandon or not to use the trade mark in relation to the goods or services to which the application relates.

© 2016, Vaish Associates Advocates,
All rights reserved
Advocates, 1st & 11th Floors, Mohan Dev Building 13, Tolstoy Marg New Delhi-110001 (India).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The views expressed in this article are solely of the authors of this article.

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

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

Rajat Jain
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
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
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.