India: Reliance Industries' Plea Of Trademark Infringement Against The Concord Enviro Systems Is Dismissed By Bombay HC

Last Updated: 12 July 2016
Article by Vikrant Rana and Tulip De
Most Read Contributor in India, September 2018

Recently, Hon'ble Justice Mr. S. J. Kathawalla of the Bombay High Court in the case of Reliance Industries Ltd. V. Concord Enviro Systems Pvt. Ltd., has ruled against Reliance Industries, dismissing the suit filed for trademark infringement of Reliance Industries by the Concord Enviro Systems Pvt. Ltd.

Case Brief

Reliance Industries claimed injunctive reliefs on the basis of infringement of its registered trademarks, infringement of copyright and passing off, on the ground that the logo of the Concord Enviro Pvt Ltd, (herein refereed as Concord logo/mark) is deceptively similar to the their registered trademarks consisting of a distinctive logo (herein referred as Relaince logo/mark). On analysising the marks, the Court came to the conclusion that there is no similarity between both the marks. Hence the Concord Pvt Ltd is not liable for infringment.

Contentions of Plaintiff (Reliance Industries Ltd.)

  • That Concord is using a mark which is deceptively similar to Reliance's registered trademark, in respect of goods falling in classes 7, 9, and 11 and services falling in class 40.
  • That the mark of Reliance is a well-known trademark within the meaning of Trade Marks Act, 1999. Therefore, Reliance is entitled to the reliefs of infringement not only in respect of goods failing in Classes in which their logo is registered but also in respect of goods falling in other classes in respect of which Concord is using and/or is intending to use their mark.
  • That the logo of Concord is both visually and structurally similar.
  • That Concord has adopted the whole of Reliance's mark and by adding a drop of water as a background to the essential feature, makes no difference.
  • That a purchaser familiar with the Reliance's logo is bound to get confused when he sees the Concord's mark, because he does not have both the marks before him and he has a general impression of the Reliance's mark.
  • That the intention of Concord to create deception and confusion is clear from the fact that the logo of Reliance has been registered from 1999 and has been extensively used. Concord did not deny that they were unaware of Reliance's mark. Hence Concord is not honest in adoption of the mark and had the intention to cause confusion in the minds of general public.
  • That the use of the Concord logo is without due cause and by such use they are taking unfair advantage of the distinctive character and reputation of Reliance registered logo.
  • That Reliance is entitled to the relief on the grounds of infringement under section 28 and 29(4) of the Act and passing off since Concord's mark is deceptively similar to Reliance's mark.
  • That Reliance is also entitled to interim reliefs on the basis of copyright. The logo of Reliance is an original artistic work. The logo is registered as an artistic work under the Copyright Act. The Concord mark is a substantial reproduction or a colorable imitation of the plaintiff's artistic work and the entire artistic work of Reliance is incorporated in the Concord logo by making slight alteration.
  • The existence of water droplet in Concord logo is irrelevant, as Concord has otherwise copied the essential feature of the Plaintiff's registered logo i.e. the curve. Therefore, the water droplet forming a part of the Concord logo is liable to be ignored.
  • That the logo of Reliance when rotated to the right appears to be an inverted or reversed or mirror image of the Concord's logo.

Contentions of Defendant (Concord Enviro Systems Pvt. Ltd.)

  • The claim that the rivals marks are identical and/or deceptively similar is wholly misconceived and/or baseless, and/or even otherwise untenable in law.
  • That the rival marks are as different as chalk and cheese. There is no similarity at all between them. This is apparent to the naked eye itself and disentitles Reliance from any reliefs whatsoever. The Concord mark is in the shape of a drop, as contrasted with the round circular shape of the logo of the Plaintiff.
  • That the Concord logo symbolizes and/or conveys the idea of Concord's initials being 'c' and 'e' artistically depicted inside the said drop, while Reliance itself calls its logo as the 'R' logo. Concord's initials are combined in a way that they give a feeling of fluidity and energy to the symbol. The 'c' of Concord is embracing the 'e' of Enviro which means the Company is contributing to create a better and cleaner environment. This is totally absent in the Reliance logo.
  • That the contention of Reliance to ignore the water droplet, or that its presence is irrelevant, is contrary to the settled law, as a mark is required to be compared as a whole.
  • That Reliance mark's curve tapers towards the left and becomes extremely wide/squarish to the right, giving it a unique shape. The curvature to the right is wide/squarish and angled such that the 'flame' in the middle leads to a formation of an 'R', and the "curve" is very 'rounded' and/or "circular" and virtually completes "circular shape". All these facets are absent in the "curve" appearing in the Concord mark.
  • That the convoluted mode of comparison of marks by rotating right, as contented by the Reliance, is absolutely impermissible.
  • That Reliance is seeking a monopoly on a curve of virtually every shape and/or size and/or dimension and/or design and/or artistic work, which is clearly impermissible.
  • That the consumers of Concord would buy their products with deliberation. These products are not sold across the counter. So there is no chance of confusion.
  • That Concord acted in good faith and honestly adopted their mark.
  • That plaintiff has miserably failed to make out a case under section 29(4) of the Act.
  • That Reliance , an extremely powerful corporate with unlimited resources is seeking to brow beat and harass, honest and bona fide entities doing legitimate business, and is trying to seek an all pervasive monopoly on a curve, which is impermissible in law.

Observations of Court

There is no similarity between the Plaintiff's logo (curve) and the curve used by the Defendant. There is a clear difference and/or distinction between the Plaintiff's curve which is in round circular shape and the curve used by the Defendant. The 'curve' used by Concord is the initials of the 'Concord Enviro' i.e. 'c' and 'e', which are artistically depicted inside the water droplet, which is an essential feature of their logo. The Reliance itself calls its logo ('curve') the 'R' logo, since the letter 'R' is written in an artistic manner inside the circle. In the Reliance 'R' logo, 'R' is formed in inverse space that is white colour or no colour. Hence there is no question of confusion in the minds of the general public. The Concord has acted in good faith and their logo is honest and bonafide.

Held

The rival marks are completely different. There is no question of confusion/damage to Reliance's reputation. The allegation made by Reliance that Concord is guilty of trademark infringement, passing off and copyright infringement is not established. Reliance has therefore, failed to make out a prima facie case. The Notice of Motion is therefore dismissed with costs.

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