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Trademark Cases in India

Trademark Cases in India

Trademark Cases in India

A trademark is a unique identifier legally protecting a business’s name, logo, or slogan. It signifies the origin and quality of goods and services, gaining consumer trust and brand recognition. However, deceptively similar marks can infringe upon this valuable asset, leading to confusion and potential harm. Such infringement dilutes brand identity, misleads consumers, and ultimately affects business reputation and revenue. This article provides a clear understanding of deceptively similar trademarks, the cases, penalties and how to avoid it.  

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What is a Deceptively Similar Trademark?

Deceptively similar trademarks closely resemble existing ones, causing potential confusion among consumers. As per Section 2(h) of The Trade Marks Act, 1999, deceptive similarity occurs when a mark is so similar to another that it’s likely to deceive or confuse. This concept is crucial in trademark law, serving as grounds for both infringement and rejection of trademark registration by the Registrar of Trademarks in India.

Three main factors are considered when assessing similarity: visual, aural, and conceptual. Visual similarity includes common elements like shapes and designs, while aural similarity relates to pronunciation. Conceptual similarity involves the overall message conveyed by the mark. Additionally, there’s a type of similarity combining visual and aural aspects, known as phonetic and visual similarity, which refers to marks resembling each other in appearance and sound. Examples include Wipro and Epro, Gluvita and Glucovita, and Lakme and Likeme.

7 Trademark Cases on Similarity of Goods and Services in India

Below, you’ll find real-time trademark cases illustrating how the Indian judiciary interprets and approaches the concept of deceptively similar trademarks.

1. Parle Products Pvt. Ltd. v JP & Co

Parle, a biscuit maker, had a trademark for their “Parle’s Glucose Biscuits” wrapper. When they noticed a similar wrapper used by JP & Co in 1961, they took legal action. The Supreme Court decided that despite minor differences, the resemblance was enough to cause confusion, highlighting the importance of avoiding confusion in trademark infringement cases.

2. Proctor and Gamble v Joy Creators 

This case is centred on Proctor and Gamble’s “OLAY TOTAL EFFECT” anti-ageing cream and Joy Creators’ “JOY ULTRA LOOKS TOTAL EFFECTS” advertised in 2008. Despite Joy Creators using the label since 2001, the Delhi High Court sided with Proctor and Gamble, emphasizing the substantial resemblance due to extensive use of key features and the likelihood of consumer confusion.

3. Sony Corporation vs. K. Selvamurthy

Sony Corporation filed a trademark infringement suit against a tour and travel business named Sony Tours and Travels. The court ruled in favour of the defendant, stating that the businesses were distinctly different, and consumers weren’t likely to be confused. Moreover, the plaintiff’s delay in taking legal action was noted, resulting in costs awarded to the defendant.

4. Starbucks Corporation v. Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co

This case involves Starbucks objecting to Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co’s logo and name. Despite receiving a cease and desist letter, Sardarbuksh continued operations, leading to a trademark infringement lawsuit.

5. Mondelez India Foods Private Limited (formerly Cadbury India Ltd.) V. Neeraj Food products

Cadbury India Limited sued over a deceptively similar mark, ‘JAMES BOND,’ used for chocolates. The Delhi High Court ruled in favour of Cadbury, granting an injunction and damages due to the likelihood of consumer confusion.

6. Vishnudas Trading v. Vazir Sultan Tobacco Co. Ltd. 

It involves the use of the ‘CHARMINAR’ trademark for different products. Despite both products being tobacco-related, the court ruled that they were distinct enough to warrant separate trademark registrations.

7. Himalaya Drug Company vs S.B.L Limited

Himalaya Drug Company sued over the use of ‘LIV-T,’ claiming it resembled their ‘LIV-52’ trademark for liver tonics. However, the court ruled that generic terms like ‘LIV’ couldn’t be exclusively claimed as trademarks, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.

How to Avoid the Trademark Cases in India?

Use the following procedure to classify your trademark to prevent legal consequences and penalties.

1. Conduct a Thorough Trademark Search:

Before adopting a new trademark, conduct a comprehensive trademark search through the Indian Trademark Registry and other online databases to identify any existing marks with potential similarity. Consider both phonetic and visual similarities and the meaning and target audience.

2. Choose a Distinctive Mark:

Select a unique and creative mark that differentiates your brand from competitors. Avoid using generic terms, descriptive elements, or elements already associated with other brands.

3. Understand Trademark Classification:

Classify your goods and services accurately under the relevant Trademark Classes. This helps ensure you’re not infringing on existing marks in similar categories.

4. Consult a Trademark Attorney:

Seeking professional guidance from a qualified trademark attorney is crucial. They can advise on the legal risks associated with your chosen mark, assess its registration, and guide you through the registration process.

5. Register Your Trademark:

Registering your trademark with the Indian Trademark Registry helps you get exclusive legal rights and strengthens your brand protection. It also simplifies legal action against infringers.

6. Monitor Trademark Use:

Regularly monitor the marketplace and online platforms for potential infringements. Use the online trademark monitoring tools and stay updated on changes in the trademark landscape.

7. Enforce Your Trademark Rights:

Take prompt action against any suspected infringement. This might involve sending cease-and-desist letters, filing opposition proceedings with the Trademark Registry, or initiating legal action.

Trademark Cases in India – Consequences & Penalties

Having a deceptively similar trademark in India can lead to several negative consequences and penalties, both civil and criminal. Here’s a breakdown:

Civil Consequences:

  • Injunction: The aggrieved party may seek a court order to restrain the infringer from using the deceptive mark, effectively stopping them from doing business under it.
  • Damages: The court can order the infringer to compensate the trademark owner for the financial losses incurred due to the infringement. This can include lost profits, damage to brand reputation, and legal expenses.
  • Accounts of Profits: The court may order the infringer to surrender all profits earned through the use of the infringing mark.

Criminal Consequences:

  • Imprisonment: The Indian Trade Marks Act of 1999 prescribes imprisonment of up to 3 years for intentionally using a deceptively similar trademark. In case of subsequent offenses, the imprisonment term can be extended to 5 years.
  • Fine: The infringer may be liable to pay a fine of up to Rs. 2 lakhs, which can be extended to Rs. 3 lakhs for subsequent offences.


In the competitive Indian market, protecting your brand identity through trademarks is crucial. Deceptively similar trademarks can not only harm your reputation and profits but also lead to legal trouble. Understanding how courts assess similarity through real-life cases and taking proactive steps like thorough searches, distinct mark selection, and legal guidance can help you navigate this complex landscape. Remember, vigilance and proactive measures are key to safeguarding your brand and ensuring its success.

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