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India: 20-Year-Old Legal Battle between Amul and Anul finally concludes

August 17, 2018

Source: www.districts.ecourts.gov.in

After a 20-year-old legal battle, Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited popularly known as Amul has successfully protected its trademark from Shri Shakti Dairy and Kuldeep Enterprises, who were held by the Commercial Court in Vadodara to be guilty of infringing Amul’s trademark by selling and marketing their products under names that were matching with Amul’s original tradename.

Brief Facts

  • In 1998, it was brought to the notice of Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited, known as Amul Dairy and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Plaintiffs’) that a private dairy named Shri Shakti Dairy (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Defendant’) based in Naroda was selling milk pouches very similar in name and design to its trademarked brands ‘Amul Taaza’ and ‘Amul Shakti’. The copied pouches were being sold by Kuldeep Enterprises as Anul Taaza and Anul Shakti.
  • After they learned of it, the Plaintiffs sent a legal notice to the Defendant as well as Kuldeep Enterprises, who were marketing “Anul Shakti” and “Anul Taaza”.
  • The Defendant continued to sell their products with the similar brand names over the years.
  • The Petitioner then moved to the District Court in Nadiad against them.
  • Later, the case was transferred to Vadodara where a new Commercial Court had been set up.

Issue

  • Whether Defendant’s actions of selling and manufacturing their goods by the name of “Anul” under the names “Anul Shakti” and “Anul Taaza” was an infringement of the trademarks of Amul?

Petitioner’s Contentions

  • It was contended that the Defendant was engaged in the selling and manufacturing of items named as “Anul Taaza” and “Anul Shakti”, which were deceptively similar to Amul’s well-known brands “Amul Taaza” and “Amul Shakti”.
  • It was argued that the products of the Defendant were sold at village areas under the name “Anul” where the village folk could very easily get confused as it would be difficult for them to differentiate between the two.
  • It was also argued that the color scheme used by Anul on their dairy pouches was also similar to that of Amul’s.
  • It contended that the Defendant’s actions of selling their products under the deceptively similar name of Anul, using similar get up in the packing and using an identical color scheme highlighted the Defendant’s
    malafide intention of imitating the trademark and reputation of the Plaintiff.

Defendant’s Contentions

  • It was contended that there was no scope for confusion to be caused to the customers because the names used for its brand was phonetically different.
  • It was submitted that there were others as well who were imitating the labels of the Plaintiff Amul, and thus, Amul Dairy did not have any monopoly right on the said label and trademark.
  • It was argued that the case was misconceived because the Defendants have themselves coined and invented the term “Anul”.

Court’s Decision

  • It held that the brand names “Anul Taaza” and “Anul Shakti” rhymed with the names of the products of the Plaintiff. Therefore, the brand names were deceptively similar to Amul’s brand name and was likely to cause confusion among customers.
  • The Court took note of the fact that there were several documentary evidences of the registration of Amul and its milk brands that were produced. It was thus held to be clear that “Amul” is the registered trademark of Amul Dairy. Moreover, the Defendant failed to furnish any evidence to prove that “Anul” was coined and invented by it.

Thus, the Defendant, its marketing firm along with their agents, dealers and distributors were injuncted from manufacturing, processing, marketing and packing under the impugned labels. The Defendants were restrained from selling their dairy products under the name “Anul”, “Anul Shakti” and “Anul Taaza” or any other deceptively confusing trade name.

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