The appellant Larsen and Toubro Ltd. (L&T), in the
instant case Larsen & Toubro Ltd. v. Lachmi Narain
Trades. & Ors 2008 (36) PTC 223 (Del.) (DB), is
engaged in diverse business activities including transportation
and infrastructural development, finance, information
technology within and outside the country. Nearly a dozen
subsidiary companies using the 'L&T' prefix
with their names have been incorporated over the years to carry
on the said business activities. The annual turnover of the
company which runs into thousands of crores and its publicity
expenditure which has gone up from 7 crores in 1991-92 to 53
crores in 2001-02 also denotes its popularity.
Aggrieved by the use of the names/abbreviation
'LNT' and 'ELENTE' as brand
names for electrical goods including electrical distribution
systems like miniature circuit breakers etc. by the defendants,
the plaintiff company filed a suit restraining it from passing
of the said goods as that of the plaintiff by confusing the
wary customers. The plaintiff's case was that the
defendant intended to capitalize on the goodwill of the
plaintiff, for there was no reason for the defendant to adopt
such a name and abbreviation. An application seeking an ad
interim injunction restraining the defendants from using the
mark LNT/ELENTE was also filed. The defendants contested
alleging that the name LNT/ELENTE was not similar to the trade
mark and trade name used by the plaintiff and that LNT was
nothing but the abbreviated form of the defendant's
family business name since 2001, Lachmi Narain Traders. Another
plane of argument was that the parties did not indulge in the
same 'field of activity'. The application was
allowed ex-parte by a learned Single Judge of the Delhi High
Court on 27th June 2003. The Judge despite allowing
the injunction by stating that the test of ' field of
activity' is no more valid, found favour in the
willingness of the defendants to use the trade name
"LNT/ELENTE-Lachmi Narain Traders" and said the
injunction would not apply should the appropriate changes be
The appellants appealed against this, thus bringing the case
under the purview of a Division Bench. The appellants referred
to the Judge's own findings in the judgment that
"they have, therefore, acquired a secondary meaning as the
moment the word 'L and T' or
'L&T' appear on a product, the consumer
will associate the same with the plaintiffs". It was
reiterated that the test of 'field of activity'
is no longer valid. Reliance was placed on precedence like:
a) Sunder Parmanand Lalwani and Ors. v. Caltex
AIR 1969 Bom 24
b) Bata India Ltd. v. M/s pyare Lal & Co.
Meerut City and Ors.
AIR 1985 All 242
c) Daimler Benz Aktiegesellschft and Anr. V. Hybo
AIR 1994 Del 239
d) Kirloskar Diesel Recon (P) Ltd. v. Kirloskar
AIR 1996 Bom 149
e) Mahendra & Mahendra Paper Mills Ltd. v.
Mahindra Mahindra Ltd.
2002(2) SCC 147
The decision of the Division Bench was to allow the appeal
to make the ex parte ad interim order absolute and have the
defendants restrained from using the trademark/names
'LNT/ELENTE' or other deceptively similar name
in relation to any of its products.
The decision of the Hon. Division Bench of the High Court in
the intent case is praiseworthy as it has substantially
reiterated the non-applicability of the test of 'field
of activity'. It has done this by over-riding the
learned Single Judge's acquiescence to the
defendant's suggestion to continue using the trademark
in the following manner - "LNT/ELENTE-Lachmi Narain
Traders". They observed that the defendant's
argument about the ability of a lay man/average consumer to
realize the difference between brand names in
'different fields of activity' was highly
optimistic in nature, thereby categorically stating the end of
the test of 'field of activity'. The question
is more of real likelihood of confusion or deception among the
consumers and the resultant damages to the plaintiff, which has
undoubtedly been proved in the present context as has been
clearly worded in the final judgement.
The decision is also far-sighted in the consideration that
it opens up an individual's/business house's
scope for expansion into any field of profit maintaining
his/its existing trademark.
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