India: Injunction Against The Use Of Duck Jars Restraining Rite Foods

Last Updated: 20 January 2009

S.K. Industries instituted a suit (S.K. Industries Pvt. Ltd. v. Rite Foods Product (P) Ltd. 2008 (38) PTC 200 (Del.)) praying for a decree of permanent injunction restraining Rite Foods Product (P) Ltd. and Ors. from infringing their design of Duck jars. S.K. Industries is a company registered at Delhi and is engaged in manufacturing, selling, distributing and marketing confectionery items under the trademark 'MAHAK', duly registered in its favour under the Trademarks Act, 1958. Rite Foods is registered under the Companies Act, 1956, doing business at Madhya Pradesh. The co-defendants are associated to Rite each being its sister concern, stockist, manufacturer and proprietor of the manufacturer.

S.K. Industries submitted that they were selling its products under the trademark 'MAHAK' and were marketing and selling its product 'MAHAK FRUGURT' in a comic shaped jar comprising a representation of a duck jar with unique features, bearing a pair of eyes, wings and a protruding beak. The jar is specially designed to be placed on a pair of legs. The upper end of the jar is open and the lid is designed in the form of a hat. The collective turnover of S.K. Industries was also rendered and a sum of over Rs. 26.00 Lakhs was stated to have been spent in advertising its products and the registered design in the impugned container, during the year 2003. They also claim to have learnt of the infringement in the year 2005. The attention of the Court was diverted to the photographs of the original and infringing products and stated that Rite Foods had blatantly copied their design, thus committing infringement in their copyright.

S.K. Industries also averred that the act amounted to violation and infringement of the copyright in the aforesaid design and has been committed with malafide intention. Vide an ex-parte ad interim injunction Rite was restrained from selling their confectionery items in jars/containers of the design while appointing a Local Commissioners to visit the premises used by Rite located at Madhya Pradesh and Haryana and make inventory of their goods. They were also directed to take into custody the infringing products which were similar to the S.K. Industries' product. Pursuant to the aforesaid order, the Local Commissioners executed the commissions and filed their respective findings.

On perusal of the impugned Duck Jar design, the Court found that Rite Foods had not copied the shape of the jar alone, but also the accessories including the head, beak, eyes and the legs as in the design. The placement of the sticker in the front of the container was also found to have been copied. The Court opined that the present case was not one of infringement of trademark, but was infact a case of the infringement of the copyright in the design of the registered owner of the Duck shaped containers. They found the evidence adduced unrebutted and stated that there existed no reason for them to disbelieve the same.

A number of judgments were cited and the principles laid down in them were found to be squarely applicable to the facts and circumstances in the present case. The Court noted that Rite had not been assigned any right of interest to use its design and get up of the Duck jars cartons used for the sale of its confectionary item 'FRUGURT'.

In this light, a decree of permanent injunction was passed in favour of S.K. Industries and against Rite Foods, restraining them from manufacturing, offering for sale, marketing, advertising, distributing or dealing in the deceptively similar Duck shaped container.

© Lex Orbis 2009

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