The Coca Cola Company vs. Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd

Coca Cola is the biggest soft drink company operating in 200 nations, and in this case, the defendant is a well-known Indian brand that is highly respected for its bottled water. This is a milestone decision in India's IPR history. It is very widely called the 'Maaza War' as well. As this name suggests, the conflict was over the patent rights to the 'Maaza' brand name.

The Coca Cola Company vs. Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd

The Coca Cola Company vs. Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd

Coca Cola is the biggest soft drink company operating in 200 nations, and in this case, the defendant is a well-known Indian brand that is highly respected for its bottled water. This is a milestone decision in India's IPR history. It is very widely called the 'Maaza War' as well. As this name suggests, the conflict was over the patent rights to the 'Maaza' brand name.

 

Facts

On September 18, 1993, the defendant sold the Trademarks to THUMBS UP, LIMCA, GOLD SPOT, CITRA and MAAZA, among others, to the claimant, the trade names, formulation rights know-how, intellectual property rights and goodwill etc. of their goods. The present case only concerns the MAAZA product. The appellant and defendant entered into a deed of assignment on 12 November 1993, by means of which the following arrangements were reached with respect to MAAZA. Finally, the licence arrangement between the claimant and Golden Agro Products Pvt. for MAAZA was signed in October 1994. Ltd. has been entered into and carried out. It is the case of the appellant that all the trademarks, formulation rights, etc were irrevocably conveyed to the plaintiff forever by this arrangement.

In March 2008, the complainant became aware that the claimant had applied for registration in Turkey for the MAAZA trademark. On 7 September 2008, the defendant submitted a legal notice to the plaintiff refusing the License Arrangement through which the plaintiff ceased to produce MAAZA and to use its trademarks, etc., either directly or indirectly, by itself or by its affiliates.

According to the complainant, the notice argued that by seeking to register MAAZA in Turkey, the plaintiff had infringed the arrangement as the agreements/assignments between the parties enabled the plaintiff to use MAAZA in India alone. The notice also claimed the intention of the defendant to continue using the MAAZA trademark in India. Subsequently, the complainant filed a lawsuit.

Issues

  1. Does the Delhi High Court have jurisdiction, in this case, to deal with the matter?

  2. Is the plaintiff entitled to claim a permanent injunction and damages for patent infringement and passing off?

 

The court held that:

The defendant prayed for the decision of this Court dated 15 October 2008 to be vacated. The objection was largely based on the lack of authority of this court to hear the present suit. The complainant's argument for arguing that the court has authority in the complaint is that the defendant does business within its jurisdiction, the complainant further supplemented his submissions by adding that the licencing arrangement of 13 May 2004 originated within the jurisdiction of the Court. The Delhi edition of the Times of India released a newspaper article demonstrating the defendant's plan to use the trademark MAAZA in India.

The defendant has a factory in Delhi from which the defendant runs a manufacturing and distribution chain equivalent to that of Mumbai and has a significant market share in and around Delhi. It is also alleged that Mr Ramesh Chauhan lives in New Delhi, who is the person with whom the correspondence was exchanged and who has now been convicted as the defendant. The court has authority under the Section 134(2) of the Trademark Act, 1999 and Section 20(c) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, to initiate litigation for infringement of a trademark. In Delhi, the plaintiff is economically and profoundly interested in business.

There is also no bar under that clause because the applicant carries on business within the territory of that court by selling and advertising its goods. The appellant pleaded that no one can deny that the complainant's commodity is widely available in Delhi under the trademark MAAZA in every nook and corner. Therefore in view of the mandate of Section 134(2) of the Act, the court must take the prima facie view of the case at this point and see the averment made in the lawsuit, there is no prohibition against filing this suit in Delhi and having jurisdiction.

In a similar case of Tata Iron & Steel Co. ltd vs. Mahavir Steels & Ors. and LG Corporation & Anr. v. Intermarket Electroplasters(P) Ltd. and Anr. it helped that The question as to whether, on the basis of averments made in the complaint, the Court has territorial authority to entertain a suit or not has to be reached is that the truth or otherwise of it is immaterial as it can not be entered at this point. 

The grounds in which the claimant identified that the defendant wanted to use the mark appeared in his notice and in the newspaper reports published in the Times of India in Delhi. The argument of the appellant that the defendant has a factory at 66, Shivaji Marg, New Delhi, explicitly states the wrongdoing.n compliance with its own admission in the present application, the defendant also has a place of business in Delhi where water is bottled there and there is no effect of the fact that its registered office is in Mumbai.

The invoices filed by the Local Commissioner which has been retrieved from M/s.Varma International suggest that MAAZA goods were shipped to one Mr Pars Ram Fruit and Spices in Australia by the latter. Various records released by one M/s MAAZA Beverages Inc., New York, were also filed by the District Commissioner. concerning the acquisition of MAAZA drinks forwarded to M/s. Parle Bisleri Pvt. Ltd, ltd.

This is further confirmed by the certificate of registration issued in the name of M/s Pars Ram Bros, Pvt. of Australia by the Trade Mark Office, Australia. At the hearing, M/s. Varma International acknowledged that the corporation had issued orders to import drinks under the MAAZA trademark and that the defendant had frequently shipped goods under the MAAZA trademark on a wide scale. It is known that the defendant No. 1 not only wanted to use the MAAZA trademark, but that the defendant was actually engaged with other companies/companies, directly or indirectly, in the said operations.

It is a well-established rule that according to section 29 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, the export of products from a country is to be treated as a transaction within the country from which the goods are exported and as a violation of a trademark. The claimant is the licenced proprietor.

Finally, in spite of the reasons mentioned above the Hon'ble Court ordered the defendant an interim injunction. The court declared that there is a prima facie argument in favour of the plaintiff and that the balance of convenience still rests only in favour of the plaintiff and the plaintiff will incur irreparable damage and harm if the injunction is not given. Therefore the defendant's repudiation of the said agreement was invalidated by the court and all MAAZA's trademark privileges were restored to the complainant.

Conclusion

A Trademark is a distinguishing symbol or word(s) used to represent a brand or its merchandise. Once registered, no other entity can use the same icon or sequence of terms forever, as long as it is in use and proper documentation and fees are charged. The present example, as the concept defines what a trademark is, is an elaboration of the definition of a trademark. If a trademark is issued by a company, it can not be used by any other corporation or may constitute a violation.

In the current case, the situation was analogous in that the claimant surrendered all the rights to the trademark to the claimant but then used it, leading to a trademark infringement suit. A landmark case pertaining to patent misuse is the present case. Jurisdiction and violation were the concerns posed. This case, however, has made it clear that the trademark is a worldwide practise and protects owners around continents. This case has also made it clear that every organization's trademark can be licenced anywhere until there is an assignment that completely confers rights, whether inside or outside the world. The judgement set the groundwork for many related decisions where the same producers would sell goods to various firms that have rights over the same products in different nations.

 

BY:-

Raksha Singhal

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