India: Damages - Court Adopts Subjective Standards

Last Updated: 24 April 2007
Article by Manisha Singh Nair

The objective of awarding damages is to put back the plaintiff in the original position. The aim of awarding punitive damage is to punish the defendant for the wrong done. It is interesting to observe the parameters laid down by the Court in awarding damages. In Microsoft case, the Delhi High court placed stringent measures to tackle copyright infringement. But the Delhi High Court in Prestige Housewares Ltd v. Dinesh Gupta & Anr. 2007 (34) PTC 335 (Del.) was reluctant to award punitive damage as there was no claim for the same in the plaint.

Facts of the case

Prestige Housewares Ltd. claims to be the manufactures of pressure cookers and other various products under TTK Group of Companies. The trademark PRESTIGE was registered in favour of Prestige Group Ltd, UK in 1949 which was later on assigned to Prestige Housewares Ltd. Apart from the pressure cookers, Prestige Housewares Ltd also undertook the marketing of parts of the pressure cookers such as gasket, seals, metallic safety valves, vent weight valves etc. They further claims to be the owner of copyright in pouching/packing material, which according to them is an original artistic work. The allegation is that Prestige Housewares Ltd found that Dinesh Gupta & Anr. were involved in the business of printing, manufacturing and marketing counterfeit PRESTIGE pouches which were spurious and sub standard. It was also alleged that Dinesh Gupta & Anr. were not only involved in printing counterfeit pouches but also were packing and marketing pressure cooker parts packed in such pouches to retailers in and outside Delhi. It is alleged that such printing and manufacturing amounted to infringement of copyright and also that it was causing damages to the goodwill and reputation of Prestige Housewares Ltd. Hence, they preferred a suit for permanent injunction, delivery up and rendition of accounts.

Dinesh Gupta & Anr. in their written statement denied that they were carrying on any unlawful activities and denied that they were printing counterfeit PRESTIGE pouches. They further stated that they did not have the printing machine for printing pouches and hence they were incapable of supplying such counterfeits.

The Court appointed a commissioner to make enquiry and in his report the commissioner stated that he found only a small flexo machine in Dinesh Gupta’s premises. But Dinesh Gupta, later on made a statement in the court that they would not resort to any printing or packing materials having a pasting similar to that of pasting of Prestige Houseware Ltd.


Based on the undertaking given by Dinesh Gupta & Anr. the Court issued a decree of permanent injunction and delivery up of the infringing goods of Dinesh Gupta & Anr. including impugned packing material, stationeries, Dies & blocks, etc. Thereafter, the Court observed that the only question left for adjudication was the extent to which Prestige Housewares Ltd were entitled to damages. On that question Prestige Housewares Ltd contented that although there was no exact information available about the sales figures and the extent of business, they were entitled to punitive damages. They further contend that the activity undertaken by Dinesh Gupta & Anr. was very dangerous to the public safety and hence should impose exemplary damages.

But the Court on pursual of the Plaint found that no claim for punitive damages was made by Prestige Housewares Ltd and placing reliance on the Local Commissioner’s report that Dinesh Gupta & Anr. were carrying on the job only with one flexo printing machine and that fact that Dinesh Gupta & Anr were having only a small scale of business, a damage of Rs. 25,000 was imposed on them.

The benchmarks adopted by the court in calculating damages differ according to the facts and circumstances of the case. The Indian Courts were very reluctant to award punitive damages, but with the Hero Honda case and Microsoft case, the above said attitude has undergone a paradigm shift. But the present case, reflects the earlier attitude.

© Lex Orbis 2007

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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