Bombay High Court

DISMISSING an appeal filed against an order of a single bench, the Bombay High Court has held that names of Hindu Gods are not exclusive and such words cannot be monopolised by one party. A bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Bharti Dangre was hearing an appeal filed by Freudenberg Gala Household Product Pvt Ltd wherein a judgment of a single judge of the high court was challenged.

Case Background
The appellant company is in the business of manufacturing and marketing of household and industrial cleaning tools such as mops, brooms etc. According to the appellant, its predecessor Gala Brush Limited adopted the trademark ‘Laxmi’ with respect to brooms and after registration of this trademark, it was assigned to Gala Clean Aids Pvt Ltd. The name of this company was changed to Freudenberg Gala Household Pvt Ltd in 2010.

It is the appellant company’s case that around June 13, 2015, they discovered that the respondent Company GEBI Products had been selling brooms using the name ‘Mahalaxmi’. Following this, a suit was filed against GEBI Products on August 24, 2015, and a notice of motion seeking interim relief was filed later. This notice of motion was dismissed by a single judge in a judgment dated July 14, 2016. Thereafter, this appeal was filed.

Submissions and Final Order
Counsel for Freudenberg, Rashmin Khandekar submitted that the defendant’s trade mark is identical or “deceptively similar” to the plaintiff’s registered trade mark, which is in respect of same goods i.e. brooms. She also said the defendant has infringed the plaintiff’s trade mark ‘Laxmi’, even though they were aware of the plaintiff’s product, “which acquired reputation over the years”.

Rohan Cama, appearing for GEBI Products, argued that the two products i.e. ‘Laxmi’ and ‘Mahalaxmi’ bear no visual similarity whatsoever. Drawing a distinction between a word mark and a label mark, Cama further submitted that the registered mark on which trade mark protection has been sought by the plaintiff is not the word ‘Laxmi’. It is a label mark.

Cama pointed to the order of dismissal of appeal and said the single judge had noted that ‘Laxmi’ is a very common name and that there were variations distinguishing the plaintiff’s mark from the defendant’s mark. He said: “The names of Hindu Gods are not exclusive and such words cannot be monopolised by one party. It is one thing to protect a label mark and an entirely different thing to claim monopoly over a common word.”

The court accepted that the two labels had distinguishing features and said:“Prima facie, we find substance in the submissions of the learned counsel appearing for the respondent – defendant that the names of Hindu Gods are not exclusive and such word cannot be monopolized by one party. Claiming and protecting the label mark is different than to claim monopoly over a common word.” Thus, the appeal was dismissed.

BY: NITISH KASHYAP FOR LIVELAW NEWSNETWORK

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