India: No Interlocutory Injunction If Damages are Adequate Remedy

Last Updated: 23 August 2007
Article by Manisha Singh

It is a settled rule that when damages can form adequate remedy, injunctions are not awarded. In the case of Dart Industries Incorporation & Anr. V. Technoplast & Anr. 2007 (35) PTC 139 (Del.) apart from reiterating the above principle, the Delhi High Court dealt with the questions of passing off and infringement of designs and copyright.

The Plaintiff No: 1 Dart Industries Inc. was a company incorporated under the laws of Delaware, USA. The Plaintiff No 1 claimed ownership and possession of proprietary, know-how, innovative technology, intellectual property rights and trade secrets for creating designs to manufacture products popularly known as Tupperware products globally. Plaintiff No. 1 licensed Plaintiff No: 2 M/S Tupperware India Pvt. Ltd. the right to use its moulds to manufacture the products along with the right to use and apply the registered design for manufacture and for sale of the products in India. The Plaintiffs claimed that the said designs became very popular in the Indian market due to the worldwide popularity and goodwill acquired by the product. Consequently, M/S Tupperware India Pvt. Ltd. claimed that it had also gathered substantial goodwill and that customers identified its products by their respective designs. Further the said designs were registered in India. Plaintiffs also acclaimed that they had won many awards for its unique designs all over the world.

The cases stems from the fact that Defendants/Techno Plast & Ors adopted and copied the said design for food grade plastic storage containers and marketed it under different name. The Plaintiff alleged that the said activity resulted in infringement of their designs and copyright, passing off of their trade dress and trade name and also resulted in unfair competition and unfair trade practice. Hence, the Plaintiffs filed the suit for permanent injunction along with an application for an ad interim injunction. The Court granted an ex parte ad interim injunction in favor of the Plaintiffs and against the Defendants.

The Defendants in the suit were arrayed as 1 to 9 of which defendants 1, 6 and 7 were alleged to be sister concerns manufacturing and marketing the infringing products whereas defendant 2 to 5 were persons running the affairs of defendant 1 & 6. A distributor of the defendant’s product in Delhi was arrayed as defendant 8 and he had formed defendant no. 9 another company for marketing the product. All the defendants filed written statements either jointly or separately but the Court for adjudicating the temporary injunction petition took into consideration the pleadings of the Plaintiff and Defendants 1 and 4.

On the question of design infringement, the defendants contented that the design lacked originality due to prior publication and hence was liable to be cancelled as per section 19 of the Designs Act, 2000. But as the Designs Act was silent on what amounts to ‘publication’ the Court relied on judicial precedents. The Court enunciated the concept laid down in Rosedale Associated Manufacturers Ltd v. Airfix Ltd. 1957 RPC 239 that if a document is to constitute prior publication, then a reader of it, possessed ordinary knowledge of the subject, must from his reading of the document be able, at least to see the design in the mind’s eye and should not have to depend on his own originality to construct the design from the ideas which the document may put into his head… Reliance was also placed on Calcutta High Court in Gopal Glass Works Limited v. Assistant Controller of Patents And Designs and Others 2006 (33) PTC 434 where it was held [T]o constitute prior disclosure by publication to destroy the novelty of a registered design, the publication would have to be, in tangible form, of the design applied to the same article.

Applying the above stated test and the documents on record, the Court came to the conclusion that even if there are some improvements over the existing designs, that would not prima facie make the work of the plaintiff original.

On copyright infringement, the plaintiffs argued that the product drawings, moulds and the engravings qualify as ‘artistic work’ under section 2 (c) (i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and thus it is the owner as per section 17 of the Act. They further pointed out that product drawing and mould drawings determine the size and shape of the parts of the mould and contended that the mould costs approximately USD 200,000. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants adopted the latest computer technology and mapped the shape of the product with laser technology and thereby reproduced the drawings and said reproduction amounted to copyright violation. The defendants on the other hand contented that the plaintiff’s had exhausted its rights, if any, under Section 15 of the Copyright Act, 1957. But the Court went on to hold that [i]f the intended use of the work was contemporaneous with its coming into existence, section 15 of the Copyright Act would apply. I may hasten to clarify that is not suggested that if any design is registered, copyright under no circumstances exist in the is possible that when the moulded plastic article of a novel shape is made from a working drawing, as in the instant case, the drawing may qualify as an original work entitled to copyright protection and, at the same time, a registered design for the shape of the article would be protected under the Designs Act.

However, the Court was reluctant to grant the injunction on the above ground as it found that the plaintiff could be compensated in terms of money and the copyright protection needs to be proved on the basis of evidence during trial.

The Court found no scope for passing off and held that defendants were selling their products under the name Signoraware products and not Tupperware Products and also that there was substantial price variation among the products. The Court restrained itself from awarding the interlocutory injunction Voicing the settled position in India that injunction would not be granted if damages would provide adequate remedy. The Court vacated the ex parte injunction with the direction that the defendants would file the statement of account of their sales periodically and that they shall not dispose off their immovable property.

© 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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