NEW DELHI: In a landmark decision in the field of trademarks, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that it was no infringement of law if two distinctly different products were marketed by two different companies with “deceptively similar” trademarks.
A decade-old trademark infringement case between Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producers Association, which has been marketing milk and milk products under the trademark ‘Nandini’ since 1985, and a group adopting the name ‘Nandhini’ for its restaurant and food products business in 1989, continued through the Registrar of Trademarks, Intellectual Property Appellate Board and Karnataka high court. With the board and the HC restraining the restaurant chain from using the ‘Nandhini’ trademark, the battle shifted to the SC in 2015.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan distinguished the products for which the deceptively similar trademarks were used. While ‘Nandini’ was for milk, milk products, cattle feed and other allied commodities, the ‘Nandhini’ trademark was for meat, fish, poultry, meat extracts, preserves, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables, jellies, jams, eggs, milk and milk products, edible oils and fats, salad dressings etc.
What eased the complex task for the court was the restaurant chain’s decision to give up its claim for ‘Nandhini’ trademark on milk and milk products. The court said, “Nandini/Nandhini is a generic name, representing a goddess and a cow in Hindu mythology, and it is not an invented or coined word by anyone to the dispute.”