2014(7) ALL MR 198
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
S.J. KATHAWALA, J.
Aristo Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Innova Cap Tab & Anr.
Notice of Motion (L) No.1839 of 2013,Suit (L) No.826 of 2013
24th December, 2013
Petitioner Counsel: Dr. B.B. SARAF along with Ms. POOJA KSHIRSAGAR and Mr. B.N. POOJARI, instructed by M/s. ASIAN PATENT LAW
Respondent Counsel: Mr. Y.S. KHOCHANE, instructed by Mr. SANJEEV S. HARIAKAR
(A) Constitution of India, Art.141 - Precedents - Pending a reference of judgment, prevailing judgments continue to be binding precedents. (Para 9)
(B) Trade Marks Act (1999), S.34 - Saving for vested rights - In order to avail benefit of S.34, use of trademark by a person other than registered proprietor must be prior to date of use by registered proprietor or date of registration, whichever is earlier. (Para 10.2)
(C) Trade Marks Act (1999), S.124 - Infringement of trademark - Suit against - Plea of adjournment/staying of suit by defendants - For staying of suit it is incumbent upon defendants to plead that plaintiff's trademark is invalid - No written statement filed by defendants nor raised such plea - Suit cannot be adjourned/stayed. (Para 16)
(D) Civil P.C. (1908), O.39 R.1 - Trade Marks Act (1999), S.124 - Temporary injunction - Application for - Suit against infringement of trade mark - Defendants infringed trade mark of plaintiff which is prior in use by plaintiff - Defendants have not bothered to take search in office of Registrar of trade marks before using trade mark - If defendants adopted an identical mark and in any case deceptively similar to plaintiff's mark, defendants did so at its own risk and cannot claim any equity on basis of such user - Plaintiff had made out prima facie case for grant of temporary injunction - Balance of convenience also lies in favour of plaintiffs - Temporary injunction entitled to be granted. (Paras 20, 21)
Cadila Health Care Ltd. Vs. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd., AIR 2001 SC 1952 [Para 7]
Bal Pharma Ltd. Vs. Centaur Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. and another, 2002 (24) PTC 226 (DB) [Para 7,10,13,17,20]
Hindustan Embroidery Mills Pvt. Ltd. Vs. K. Ravindra and Co., (1974) 76 Bom LR 146 [Para 9]
Poddar Tyres Vs. Bedrock Sales Corporation Ltd., AIR 1993 Bom. 237 [Para 9]
Biochem Pharmaceuticals Vs. Biochem Synergy, (1997) 99 Bom LR 538 [Para 9]
Indchemie Health Specialities Vs. Naxpar Labs, 2002 (3) Mh LJ 744 [Para 9,15]
Maxheal Pharmaceuticals Vs. Shalina Laboratories, Appl. No. 88/2005 NMS No. 2638/2004, Dt.16.2.2005 [Para 9]
Kores (India) Ltd. Vs. Whale Stationery Products, 2008 (36) PTC 463 (Bom) [Para 9]
Abdul Cadur Alliboy Vs. Mahomedally Hyderally, 1901 (3) Bom. L.R. 220 [Para 9]
American Home Products Corporation Vs. Mac Laboratories and others, AIR 1986 SC 137 [Para 11]
Wyeth Holdings Corporation and another Vs. Burnet Pharmaceutical (Pvt.) Ltd., 2008(2) ALL MR 405=2008 (36) PTC 478 [Para 12,20]
M/s. Santacruz Medical Stores Vs. Sahib Singh Agencies (Bom.) Ltd. and others, 2012 (5) Bom CR 858 [Para 12]
Corn Products Refining Co. Vs. Shangrila Food Products Ltd., AIR 1960 SC 142 [Para 13]
Pidilite Industries Ltd. Vs. S.M. Associates and others, 2004 (28) PTC 193 [Para 13]
Midas Hygine Industries Vs. Sudhir Bhatia and others, 2004 (28) PTC 121 (SC) [Para 13]
Schering Corporation and Ors. Vs. Kilitch and Co., 1990 1 PLR 1 : PTC (supp) (2) 22 Bom [Para 13,20]
Heinz Italia and another Vs. Dabur India Ltd., 2007(4) ALL MR 777 (S.C.)=(2007) 6 SCC 1 [Para 13]
Bade Miya Vs. Mubin Ahmed, 2011(3) ALL MR 540=2011(3) Mh LJ 813 [Para 9]
ITM Trust Vs. Educate India Society, 2012(5) ALL MR 734=NMS/ 310/2012 S. No. 284/2012, Dt.20.07.2012 [Para 9]
Marico Ltd. Vs. Agrotech Food Ltd, 2010 (44) PTC 736 DB [Para 9]
SBL Vs. Himalaya Drug, 1997 (17) PTC 540 DB [Para 9,12]
Kivi Labs Vs. Sun Pharmaceuticals Laws, (MAD), Dt. 9.10.2012 [Para 9,12]
Lowenbrau Ag and another Vs. Jagpin Breweries, 2009 (39) PTC 726 Del [Para 9]
Lupin Ltd. Vs. Johnson & Johnson, NMSL/2178/2012, SL No. 1842/2012, Dt.12/9/2012 [Para 9]
M/s. J.K. Sons Vs. Parksons Games and Sports, 2011(3) ALL MR 346=2011 (47) PTC 443 (Bom) [Para 9]
Hindustan Pencils Pvt. Ltd. Vs. M/s. India Stationery Products Co. and Anr., AIR 1990 Delhi 19 [Para 13]
Willmott Vs. Barber, (1880) 15 Ch. D. 96 [Para 13]
Cadila Pharmaceuticals ltd. Vs. Sami Khatib of Mumbai and another, 2011(4) ALL MR 152=2011 (3) Bom CR 587 [Para 14]
Ruston and Hornby Ltd. Vs. Zamindara Engineering Co., AIR 1970 SC 1649 : AIR 1970 SC 1649 [Para 15]
Astrazeneca UK Ltd. Vs. Orchid Chemicals, 2006 (32) PTC 733 Del [Para 16]
Pfizer Inc. Vs. Rajesh Chopra and others, 2006 (32) PTC 301 [Para 16]
BDA Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Paul P. John, 2008 (37) PTC 569, 669 [Para 16]
Apex Laboratories Vs. Apex Formulations, 2011 (46) PTC 391 [Para 16]
Shakti Traders Vs. Shakti Press, 2008(5) ALL MR 699 [Para 16]
Kamat Hotels, 2011(7) ALL MR 514=2011 (47) PTC 111 Bom [Para 20]
Wander Ltd. Vs. Antox, 1990 Supp SCC 726 [Para 20]
JUDGMENT :- The Plaintiff has filed the present Suit against the Defendants inter alia for a perpetual order of injunction restraining the Defendants from infringing the Plaintiff's registered trademark 'MONTINA'. By the present Notice of Motion, the Plaintiff has sought an order of temporary injunction against the Defendants from manufacturing and marketing any medicinal preparation/product by using the mark MONTINA-L.
2. The Plaintiff is engaged in the business of manufacturing and sale of medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations. The Defendant No. 2 is carrying on business in marketing of medicinal and pharmaceutical preparation in the State of Gujarat and the Defendant No.1 is the manufacturer of several pharmaceutical and medicinal preparation of Defendant No.2. In December, 2002, the Plaintiff (then a Public Limited Company being Aristo Pharmaceuticals Limited) originally conceived and adopted a trademark being 'MONTINA', to be used for its medicinal/pharmaceutical preparations. The Plaintiff thereafter conducted a search and did market survey and did not find any mark which was identical and/or similar to MONTINA in India or elsewhere. On 31st December, 2002, the Plaintiff applied for and got the trademark MONTINA registered in Class 5, for medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations. The registration was granted on 9th March, 2005 which is effective from the date of application i.e. 31st December, 2002. The Plaintiff was subsequently converted into a Private Limited Company i.e. Aristo Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. The Plaintiff's name as a Private Limited Company is also recorded as the subsequent proprietor in the Register of Trademarks. The registration of the trademark was renewed on 31st December, 2012 for a further period of ten years in favour of the Plaintiff. The registration of the trademark is thus valid and subsisting.
3. In June, 2013, the Plaintiff commenced manufacturing of medical preparation in the form of syrup and tablets which was to be marketed under the trademark MONTINA. In August, 2013, the Plaintiff commenced selling the medicinal preparation under the trademark MONTINAL. Since then the Plaintiff is selling the said medicinal preparation in tablet as well as syrup form.
4. Sometime in September, 2013, the Plaintiff came across the Defendants' medicinal preparation sold under the identical trademark MONTINAL. On 19th September, 2013, the Plaintiff filed the above Suit against the Defendants for infringement of its trademark and passing off the Defendants' goods as those of the Plaintiff's by the Defendants' use of the trademark 'MONTINA'. The Plaintiff also took out the above Notice of Motion seeking adinterim and interim reliefs. The Plaintiff apprehended that if the notice of the application for adinterim relief is given to the Defendants, the Defendants will either remove the stock of medicinal preparation bearing trademark MONTINAL or flood the market with the pharmaceutical preparation bearing trademark MONTINAL. Therefore, an application for adinterim relief was made ex parte. On 27th September, 2013, this Court granted the following ex parte adinterim injunction in favour of the Plaintiff:
"Pending the hearing and final disposal of the Notice of Motion, the Defendants by themselves and/or their servants, agents, representatives and/or any person(s) claiming under or through them are restrained from infringing the Plaintiff's trademark 'MONTINA' under registration No. 1162864 in Class 05 in Exhibit A1 & Exhibit A2 hereto by adopting and/or in any manner using the mark 'MontinaL' or any mark identical with and/or deceptively similar to, and/or colourable imitation of the registered trademark 'MONTINA' in relation to medicinal and/or pharmaceutical preparations or similar goods".
(i) The trademark 'MONTINA' was invented by Defendant No.2 in the year 2008. The prefix 'MONT' is taken from the principal drug 'Montelukast' and 'INA' is taken from the name of the Company ANIKEM.
(ii) At the time of the adoption of the trademark, the Plaintiff's products were not available in the market and therefore the adoption is honest.
(iii) Defendant No.2 has spent monies on the sales/promotional activities.
(iv) Since the year 2009, Defendant No. 2 is openly, regularly and extensively using the trademark 'MONTINAL' in relation to their medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations as can be seen from the sales figures provided by the Defendant No. 2.
(v) Defendant No.2 is selling the medicinal preparation in the market since 2009 and the present Suit is filed by the Plaintiff in the year 2013. Therefore there is a delay on the part of the Plaintiff in filing the above Suit.
(vi) The Plaintiff has allowed Defendant No.2 to continue, expand and consolidate the business under the trademark 'MONTINA'.
6. The Plaintiff has filed an affidavit in rejoinder denying the aforestated allegations including the sales figures of the medicinal preparation under the trademark 'MONTINAL', as asserted by the Defendant No.2 in their affidavit in reply.
7.1The Plaintiff's trademark validly subsists on the Register of Trademarks since 31st December, 2002 and the use of any identical and/or deceptively similar trademark by the Defendant amounts to infringement of the Plaintiff's trademark.
7.2 The adoption and/or use of the trademark 'MONTINAL' by the Defendants is subsequent to the Plaintiff's said registration of the trademark 'MONTINA'. The Plaintiff is a registered proprietor of the trademark MONTINA and the use of identical trademark by the Defendants amounts to infringement of the Plaintiff's trademark.
7.3 The Defendants' subsequent adoption and/or unauthorized use of its trademark 'MONTINA' and/or any mark identical with and in any case deceptively similar thereto is an infringement of the Plaintiff's trademark thereby violating the Plaintiff's statutory rights to proprietorship and exclusive use of the trademark in respect of the said goods.
7.4 The adoption and use of the trademark by the Defendant is admittedly subsequent to the Plaintiff's registration and therefore the defence under Section 34 of the Trademarks Act, 1999 ("the Act") is not available to the Defendants.
7.5 The dictum of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Cadila Health Care Ltd. vs. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd.AIR 2001 SC 1952 (Paras 32 to 35) and the findings/observations of the Division Bench of this Court in the matter of Bal Pharma Ltd. vs. Centaur Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. and another 2002 (24) PTC 226 (DB) will squarely apply to the present case.
7.6 The reliefs sought by the Plaintiff in the above Notice of Motion therefore be granted.
8. The Learned Advocate appearing for the Defendant No.2 during his arguments advanced the submissions set out in paragraph 5 above. However, when the written submissions were filed on behalf of Defendant No.2, this Court noticed that the Defendant No. 2 has traversed far beyond what was either pleaded or argued before this Court. An incorrect and unhealthy trend of filing written submissions traversing far beyond what is pleaded or what is argued before the Court has now set in. Such conduct on the part of a party and/or his Advocate us most improper and the same is strongly deprecated. However, I have considered all the submissions made by the parties including the submissions made on behalf of Defendant No. 2 in its written submissions.
9. The Defendants have in the affidavit in reply not pleaded that the Plaintiff's registration is invalid. The Advocate for the Defendants also did not submit in the course of his arguments that this Court is empowered to go behind a registration. However, in the written submissions it has been extensively submitted, relying upon the judgments of the Hon'ble Delhi High Court and the other courts, to contend that the Court can go behind the registration. It is also contended that the issue whether the Court can go behind the registration has been referred to a larger Bench of this Court. However, as submitted by the Learned Advocate appearing for the Plaintiff, it has been the consistent view of this Court in various judgments that it is not permissible to go behind the registration of a trademark more so in an interim proceeding and that till the mark remains on the Register, others ought not to be permitted to imitate the same. In the case of Hindustan Embroidery Mills Pvt. Ltd. vs. K. Ravindra and Co.(1974) 76 Bom LR 146. it was held that it is not the practice to consider the validity of the registration of the trademark on a motion for interlocutory injunction taken out by a person who has got the mark registered in his name. While the mark remains in the Register (even wrongly) it is not desirable that others should imitate it. Similar view has been taken by this Court in (i) Poddar Tyres vs. Bedrock Sales Corporation Ltd. AIR 1993 Bom. 237 (Para 51); (ii) Biochem Pharmaceuticals vs. Biochem Synergy (1997) 99 Bom LR 538; (iii) Indchemie Health Specialities v. Naxpar Labs 2002 (3) Mh LJ 744; (iv) Maxheal Pharmaceuticals vs. Shalina Laboratories Judgment dated 16th Feb. 2005 of a Division Bench of this Court in Appeal No. 88 of 2005 in NMS No. 2638 of 2004; (v) Kores (India) Ltd. v. Whale Stationery Products 2008 (36) PTC 463 (Bom); (vi) Bade Miya vs. Mubin Ahmed 2011 (3) Mh LJ 813 : [2011(3) ALL MR 540]; and (viii) ITM Trust vs. Educate India Society Unreported judgment dated 20th July, 2012 in NMS No. 310 of 2012 in S. No. 284 of 2012 : [2012(5) ALL MR 734]. In the light of the binding precedents of this Court, the reliance on judgments of the other Courts, including in the case of Marico Ltd. vs. Agrotech Food Ltd 2010 (44) PTC 736 DB, SBL vs. Himalaya Drug 1997 (17) PTC 540 DB, Kivi Labs vs. Sun Pharmaceuticals Laws (MAD) - 2012-10-9, Lowenbrau Ag and another vs. Jagpin Breweries 2009 (39) PTC 726 Del, is misconceived. The mere fact that in the case of Lupin Ltd. vs. Johnson & Johnson Judgment dated 12th Sept. 2012 in NMSL 2178 of 2012 in SL No. 1842 of 2012, the learned Single Judge of this Court has referred the issue as regards the power of the Court to go behind a registration to a larger bench, does not in any manner dilute the binding precedents of this Court till the same are expressly set aside. It is settled law that pending a reference, the prevailing judgments continue to be binding precedents.
9.1 The Defendants have also relied upon the case of M/s. J.K. Sons vs. Parksons Games and Sports 2011 (47) PTC 443 (Bom) : [2011(3) ALL MR 346] (which relies on a judgment of this Court in Abdul Cadur Alliboy vs. Mahomedally Hyderally 1901 (3) Bom. L.R. 220) and has contended that this judgment is in conflict with the view expressed by the Division Bench of this Court in Maxheal Pharmaceuticals vs. Shalina Laboratories (supra). It is submitted that the said judgments i.e. M/s. J.K. Sons, [2011(3) ALL MR 346] (supra) and Abdul Cadur Alliboy (supra) hold that a person who himself has imitated somebody else's mark/copyright and is guilty of false and misleading representation is not entitled to an injunction and the same is applicable to the cases of infringement of trademark and passing off. However, the Defendants in the present case have neither pleaded nor proved that the Plaintiff has copied the trademark of some other manufacturer and therefore the reliance placed on the judgment of M/s. J.K. Sons, [2011(3) ALL MR 346] (supra) is completely misplaced.
9.2 In the circumstances, the question of going behind the registration of the Plaintiff's trademark as contended by the Defendant No.2 does not arise.
10. It is next submitted on behalf of the Defendant No. 2 that though the Plaintiff got its trademark 'MONTINA' registered since 2002, the Plaintiff has not used the said trademark until August, 2013. As against this, the Defendant No.2 has been selling its medicinal preparation in the market since 2009 and the total sales turnover of the Defendants are as follows:
Sr. Year Total Sales Turnover (INR) No. MONTINA Tab MONTINA-L Tab. MONTINA-l syrup 1 2009-10 33,520.00 . .. 2 2010-11 12,564.00 3,92,320.00 .. 3 2011-12 .. 6,85,600.00 88,639.00 4 2012-13 .. 8,97,512.40 2,37,212.40 5 2013-14 April- September 4,95,998.20 1,51,698.00
It is therefore submitted that the Defendants being the prior user of the mark 'MONTINAL', the Plaintiff is not entitled to seek any restraint orders against the Defendants on the ground of alleged infringement of the Plaintiff's registered trademark 'MONTINA'.
10.1 In order to deal with the above submission, it is necessary to reproduce hereunder Section 34 of the Act. The same reads as under:
"34. Saving for vested rights.Nothing in this Act shall entitle the proprietor of a registered user of a registered trademark to interfere with or restrain the use by any person of a trademark identical with or nearly resembling it in relation to goods in relation to which that person or a predecessor in title of his has continuously used that trademark from a date prior-
(a) to the use of the first mentioned trade mark in relation to those goods by the proprietor or a predecesssor in title of his; or
(b) to the date of registration of the first mentioned trademark in respect of those goods in the name of the proprietor or a predecessor in title of his;
whichever is the earlier, and the Registrar shall not refuse (on such use being proved) to register the second mentioned trade mark by reason of the registration of the first mentioned trademark (emphasis supplied).
10.2 A bare reading of Section 34 of the Act in my view, makes it clear that in order to avail the benefit of Section 34 of the Act, the use of a trademark by a person other than the registered proprietor must be prior to the date of use by the registered proprietor or the date of the registration, whichever is earlier. Thus, in circumstances where the use by a Defendant is prior to the use by the registered proprietor, but not prior to the date of registration, the benefit of Section 34 of the Act is not available. In the present case, the registration is effective as of 2002 whereas Defendant No. 2 claims to have used the mark only from 2009. In such circumstances, no alleged right of the Defendant is saved under Section 34 of the Act.
10.3 As pointed out by the Plaintiff, a similar view was taken by the Division Bench of this Court (in an Appeal from an adinterim order) in the matter of Bal Pharma Ltd. vs. Centaur Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. (supra).
11. The Defendants have next contended that the trademark of the Plaintiff has become liable to be removed from the Register of Trademarks under Section 47 (1) (b) of the Act. The Defendant No.2 has in support of this contention relied on the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of American Home Products Corporation vs. Mac Laboratories and others AIR 1986 SC 137.
11.1 Section 47 (1) (b) of the Act is reproduced hereunder for ready reference:
"47. Removal from register and imposition of limitations on ground of nonuse. (1) A registered trade mark may be taken off the register in respect of the goods or services in respect of which it is registered on application made in the prescribed manner to the Registrar or the Appellate Board by any person aggrieved on the ground either-
(a) . . .. ...
(b) that up to a date three months before the date of the application, a continuous period of five years from the date on which the trade mark is actually entered in the register or longer had elapsed during which the trade mark was registered and during which there was no bona fide use thereof in relation to those goods or services by any proprietor thereof for the time being.
.. ... .. .."
11.2 From a reading of Section 47 set out hereinabove, in my view it is clear that the said Section gives a right to an aggrieved person to make an application to the Registrar or the Appellate Board for removal of the trademark from the Register of Trademarks, if the grounds as set out in Section 47 of the Act exist and the same are proved. However, this does not empower a person to use a mark by infringing a registered mark, till such time as it is removed from the Register. The reliance placed by the Defendants on the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of American Home Products Corporation vs. Mac Laboratories and others (supra) will not lend assistance to the Defendants. The said case was a case arising from an application for removal of a mark from the Register and as such has no application whatsoever to a Suit for infringement of a registered trademark which continues to subsists on the Register. The judgment does not in any manner hold that in an infringement action, while the registration of the mark still continues to subsists, it is open to the Defendant to raise the contention that there was no bona fide intention on the part of the registered proprietor to use the mark when the mark was originally registered.
11.3 In view thereof the contention of the Defendant No. 2 that the trademark of the Plaintiff has become liable to be removed from the Register of the Trademarks under Section 47 (1) (b) of the Act is rejected.
12. The Defendant No.2 has also contended that they have derived the trademark MONTINA from the name of a generic pharmaceutical ingredient called "MONTELUKAST" . It is further contended that the drug was initially developed at a place called MONTREL. It is contended that since the trademark is derived from the name of the main ingredient drug, no single manufacturer can claim monopoly on the generic word. In support of this contention the Defendant No. 2 has relied upon the decisions in SBL Limited vs. Himalaya Drug Company(supra) and Kiwi Labs v. Sun Pharmaceuticals (supra).
12.1 As correctly pointed out by the Plaintiff, the Defendant No. 2 in its affidavit in reply has merely stated as to how it coined the mark MONTINA but has not raised a specific plea to prove that the mark is generic, and therefore the Plaintiff does not have a monopoly despite the registration. In the absence of such a plea, an argument of this nature cannot be raised across the bar. Again, the very fact that Defendant No. 2 claims that MONTINA is a coined mark, is a clear admission by them that the same is novel and original. In any case, this contention is devoid of merit. It is the contention of the Defendants that they used the word 'MONT' from the name of a generic drug. As regards the remaining portion of the mark 'INA', the only explanation given by the Defendant is that it is the reverse form of the first three letters of the name of the Defendant No.2 i.e. 'ANIkem'. The explanation as to how the Defendants derived the very name which is absolutely identical to that of the Plaintiff is not bona fide and does not inspire any confidence. In any event, as stated hereinabove, once a mark is registered, it is not open to any person so long as the mark remains on the Register, to contend that the same has been derived from its generic drug and therefore invalid.
12.2 Applying the aforesaid principle, this Court has in different judgments, in the context of registered trademarks, dealt with the contention that the mark has been derived from a generic name. In the case of Wyeth Holdings Corporation and another vs. Burnet Pharmaceutical (Pvt.) Ltd. 2008 (36) PTC 478 : [2008(2) ALL MR 405], the learned Single Judge of this Court was considering the case of the Plaintiff, wherein the Plaintiff alleged infringement of its trademark "FOLVITE" in Class 5. The Defendant was earlier using the mark FOLCACID which was subsequently changed to FOLV. The Learned Judge observed thus:
"18. The contention of the Defendant is that the mark FOLVITE is a combination of FOL which stands for folic acid and VIT which is an abbreviation for Vitamin. The theory propounded by the Defendant is that the Plaintiffs cannot assert a monopoly over folic acid on the one hand and Vitamin on the other by adding an "e" to an abbreviation of the two words. This argument of the Defendant clearly misses the point and there are several reasons why it cannot be accepted. First and foremost, the word FOLVITE has absolutely no meaning in the English language. It is an invented word. As the Supreme Court observed in Cadila, it is not right to take a part of a word and compare it with a part of another. Each word must be taken as a whole and compared as a whole with the other. It is not right to take a portion of the word and say that because that portion of the word differs from the corresponding portion of the word in the other case, there is no sufficient similarity to cause confusion."
19. Secondly, it is a settled principle of law that so long as a mark continues on the Register, it is not open to the Defendant in an action for infringement to question the validity of the registration. Subsection (1) of Section 31 postulates that in all legal proceedings relating to a trade mark registered under the Act, the original registration of the trademark and of all subsequent assignments and transmissions of the mark shall be prima facie evidence of the validity thereof. The sequitur of the submission of the Defendant is that the mark of the Plaintiffs comprises of a generic description of two elements, namely folic acid and Vitamin, resulting thereby in the mark losing its distinctive character. During the course of the submissions, however, Mr. Dhond, the Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Defendant who argued the case with felicity, submits that the Defendant does not question the distinctive character of the mark of the Plaintiffs or the validity of the mark. The mark of the Plaintiffs constitutes a composite invented word and it would not be open to the Defendant by a process of breaking down the mark to claim that it is only a combination of common elements. Such an exercise would be impermissible and so long as the mark continues to be borne on the Register of Trade Marks, the validity of the mark cannot be questioned."
Relying upon the above judgment, a similar view has been taken by another Judge of this Court in SMS Formulations Pvt. Ltd. and M/s. Santacruz Medical Stores vs. Sahib Singh Agencies (Bom.) Ltd. and others 2012 (5) Bom CR 858 .
12.3 The judgments relied upon by the Defendants in support of its case are not at all applicable to the present case. The judgment of the Delhi High Court in SBL Limited vs. Himalaya Drug Company (supra) relied upon by the Defendant is a judgment in interim proceedings and is reversed at the final stage. Furthermore, this judgment held that whether such feature is 'publici juris' or generic is a question of fact. Furthermore, in that case it was established by documentary evidence that there were about 100 drugs in the market which had similar abbreviation as prefix or suffix. In the present case, the Defendant has not even pleaded this ground and no evidence has been led by the Defendant in this regard. The reliance on the judgment in Kivi Labs vs. Sun Pharmaceuticals (supra) by Defendant No. 2, is also completely misplaced and is contrary to the view taken by this Court. It is submitted that the Plaintiff's trademark is an invented word and as long as its validity exists on the Register, its validity cannot be questioned.
13. It is also contended on behalf of Defendant No.2 in its written submissions that various manufacturers who are manufacturing the 'MONTELUKAST' drug are using the prefix 'MONT' as a part of their trademark. The Plaintiffs have correctly contended that the contention of 'common to trade' is a matter of fact and ought to have been pleaded and proved by the Defendant No.2 in its affidavit in reply. In the absence of any such plea, it is not permissible to raise such a plea in the course of arguments. It is further correctly submitted on behalf of the Plaintiff that an argument of 'common to trade' is an argument in support of a contention that there is no deceptive similarity between the two marks and there is no likelihood of any confusion. By raising a plea of 'common to trade' in arguments, what the Defendants are attempting to plead is that there are a series of similar marks available in the market containing common features which results in a consumer to be more discerning and pay more attention to the features which are different, and this reduces the likelihood of confusion. This can never be an argument available in circumstances where the marks are identical. In the present case, both the marks are identical marks and the plea of 'common to trade' is completely misplaced and misconceived.
13.1 In any event, in order to succeed in the defence of 'common to trade', the Defendants are required not only to plead but also to prove with cogent material that there are similar marks in the market and the same are in extensive use. This ratio is laid down in the following judgments:
(i) Corn Products Refining Co. vs. Shangrila Food Products Ltd. AIR 1960 SC 142. It was held that the series of marks containing the common elements can only assist the defendant when these marks are in extensive use in the market. The onus of proving such user is of course on the person, who wants to rely on the marks.
(ii) Pidilite Industries Ltd. vs. S.M. Associates and others 2004 (28) PTC 193:
"..if a Defendant in a Suit for infringement of its trade mark seeks to rely upon the series theory in resisting the claim, he must establish the user upon which the objection is founded. It is further held that even in interim proceedings, it is not sufficient merely for the Defendant to show prima facie that there is some user of the marks. There must be prima facie evidence to show extensive use. At the final hearing of the Suit the level of proof required is higher - the matter requiring to be proved viz. "extensive or substantial use" remaining the same".
13.2 The Defendants have also submitted that the Defendants have been marketing its products since 2009 and that there has been delay and acquiescence on the part of the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff has submitted that there is no delay on the part of the Plaintiff in instituting the present Suit. The Plaintiff has stated that the sales figures of Defendant No. 2 are minuscule and which could have hardly been noticed by the Plaintiff. This Court has noted that the Defendant No.2 has not produced any evidence that it ever advertised its products under the said mark. In any event, where a party has used a mark in the face of a registered trademark without even bothering to take search in the Register, such use is at the Defendants own risk and it is not open to the Defendants to then raise a contention of delay. I am in complete agreement with the findings/observations of this Court in the case of Bal Pharma (supra). Paragraph 11 of the said decision is relevant and reproduced hereunder:
"11. Then we turn to the question of delay and acquiescence. Mr. Tulzapurkar, learned Counsel appearing for the Respondent cites the judgment of the Supreme Court in Power Control Appliances and Ors. vs. Sumeet Machines Pvt. Ltd. (1994) 1 SCR 708wherein the Supreme Court approvingly referred to the judgment of the Appeal Court in England in Electrolux LD v. Electrix and quoted a passage therefrom in paragraph 34 of its judgment. Our attention was also drawn to the judgment in Electrolux itself. Reference to the judgment in Electrolux shows that there is no hard and fast rule that delay per se would defeat an application for interlocutory injunction. The judgment indicates that in a situation where the defendant to an action has been using the mark, even if concurrently, without making himself aware of the fact as to whether the same mark is the subject-matter of the registration and belongs to another person, the first person cannot be heard to complain for he has been using it negligently in as much as he has not taken the elementary precaution of making himself aware by looking at the public record of Registrar as to whether the mark in question is the property of another. If, however, he had taken search and, knowing full well that the mark was the property of another person, continues to use the mark, then he runs the risk of a registered proprietor challenging his action for infringement and merely because it is done at a subsequent stage, he cannot be heard to complain on the ground of delay. Further discussion in the judgment shows that in order to deny an interlocutory injunction, the delay must be such as to have induced the defendant or at least to have lulled him into a false sense of security to continue to use the trade mark in the belief that he was the monarch of all he surveyed. In our judgment, such are not the circumstances here. We are not satisfied from the record that a search was taken of the registry by the Appellant to assure itself that there was no other person who owned the mark "MICRODINE". Assuming that the search was taken, and the Appellant has done it consciously, then the Appellant has to thank itself for having gambled by investing large amounts in a risky venture. Either way, we do not think that the defence can succeed, at this stage, at least."
13.3 In any case, it is settled law that in case of infringement, delay is never a defence. In Midas Hygine Industries vs. Sudhir Bhatia and others 2004 (28) PTC 121 (SC), it was held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court that the law on the subject is well settled. In cases of infringement either of the trademark or of copyright normally an injunction must follow.
13.4 Again, the concept of acquiescence is very distinct and different from delay. Mere delay is never an answer to an action for infringement. In so far as the plea of acquiescence is concerned, a mere allegation of inaction is not sufficient. The Courts have repeatedly held that acquiescence requires tacit or express consent; not merely silence or inaction. This has been repeatedly held by the Courts in various judgments including in (i) Schering Corporation and Ors. vs. Kilitch and Co. 1990 1 PLR 1: PTC (supp) (2) 22 Bom., (ii) Heinz Italia and another vs. Dabur India Ltd. (2007) 6 SCC 1 : [2007(4) ALL MR 777 (S.C)] and (iii) Hindustan Pencils Pvt. Ltd. vs. M/s. India Stationery Products Co. and Anr. AIR 1990 Delhi 19 (Para 39)
13.5 In Power Control Appliances and others vs. Sumeet Machines (supra) the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed as under:
"26. Acquiescence is sitting by, when another is invading the rights and spending money on it. It is a course of conduct inconsistent with the claim for exclusive rights in a trademark, trade name, etc. It implies positive acts; not merely silence or inaction such as is involved in laches. It is important to distinguish mere negligence and acquiescence. Acquiescence is one fact of delay. If the Plaintiff stood by knowingly and let the Defendants build upon important trade until it had become necessary to crush it, then the Plaintiffs would be stopped by their acquiescence. If the acquiescence in the infringement amounts to consent, it will be a complete defence"
In the aforesaid judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has quoted with approval the judgment in the case of Willmott v. Barber (1880) 15 Ch. D. 96 by Fry. J.(as he then was) at p. 105 and the following passage therefrom is reproduced hereunder:
"It has been said that the acquiescence which will deprive a man of his legal rights must amount to fraud, and in my view that is an abbreviated statement of a very true proposition. A man is not to be deprived of his legal rights unless he has acted in such a way as would 'make it fraudulent for him to set up those rights'. Let me pause here to say that I do not understand that, by the word 'fraudulent', the learned Judge was thereby indicating conduct which would amount to a common law tort of deceit. 'What, then, are the elements or requisites necessary to constitute fraud of that description?' In the first place 'the plaintiff must have made a mistake as to his legal rights'. Secondly, the plaintiff must 'have expended some money or must have done some act (not necessarily upon the defendant's land) on the faith of his mistaken belief. Thirdly, the defendant, the possessor of 'the legal right, must know of the existence of his own right which is inconsistent with the right claimed by the plaintiff. If he does not know of it he is in the same position 'as the plaintiff, and the doctrine of acquiescence is founded upon conduct with a knowledge' of your legal rights. Fourthly, the defendant, the possessor of the legal right, must know 'of the plaintiff's mistaken belief of his rights. If he does not, there is nothing which' calls upon him to assert his own rights. Lastly, the defendant, the possessor of the legal 'right, must have encouraged the plaintiff in his expenditure of money or in the other acts which he has done, either directly or by abstaining from asserting his legal right'. In reading that passage, it is perhaps necessary to note (because it makes it at first sight a little more difficult to follow) that the positions of plaintiff and defendant as they are usually met with are there transposed, and that one of the parties who is there spoken of as the plaintiff corresponds with the present case with the defendants, and vice versa."
14. The Defendants have also sought to contend that they have adopted the trademark honestly. The Plaintiff has correctly submitted that once a case of infringement is made out, honest adoption is not a defence available to the Defendants. The same view was taken by a Division Bench of this Court in Cadila Pharmaceuticals ltd. vs. Sami Khatib of Mumbai and another 2011 (3) Bom CR 587 : [2011(4) ALL MR 152] where the Court was considering the question as to whether the Plaintiff's mark "RB TONE" is being copied by the Defendants as "HB TONE". The Division Bench observed thus:
"15. We will assume that the Appellant adopted the mark "Hb TONE" as alleged in the affidavit in support. Firstly, even if it did so honestly and independently, it would make no difference to the grant of an injunction for infringement or passing off once it is held that the mark is deceptively similar to the Respondent's mark (See Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. vs. Wyeth Holding Corporation, 2005 (30) PTC 14 (Bom) (DB) paragraph 21."
In any case the explanation given for adoption of the mark MONTINA by the Defendant No.2 completely defeats the contention of honest adoption. It is the contention of the Defendant No.2 that they used the word 'MONT' from the name of the generic drug Montelukast. As regards the remaining portion of the mark 'INA', the only explanation given by the Defendant is that it is the reverse form of the first three letters of the name of the Defendant No.2 'ANIkem'. The entire explanation as to how the Defendants derived the very same name which is absolutely identical as that of the Plaintiff is not bona fide and does not inspire any confidence.
15. The Defendants have contended that the Plaintiff's registered mark is MONTINA whereas the Defendants are using the mark MONTINA-L and as such the Defendants' mark is not identical or deceptively similar to the Plaintiff's mark. This is not a contention raised in the affidavit. In fact in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the Affidavit, the Defendant No. 2 has contended that their trademark is MONTINA and MONTINA-L. In the absence of such a plea, the Defendant cannot be permitted to raise this contention in arguments. In any case, this contention is misconceived in law. In Ruston and Hornby Ltd. vs. Zamindara Engineering Co. AIR 1970 SC 1649 : AIR 1970 SC 1649, the Hon'ble Supreme Court while considering the rival marks "Ruston" and "Rustom India" held that the mere fact that the word 'India' was added to the Defendant's mark is of no consequence. In Indchemie Health Specialities Pvt. Ltd. vs. Naxpar Labs Pvt. Ltd. and another (supra) this Court has held that if the Plaintiff's mark is entirely incorporated in the Defendants' mark, the same tantamounts to an infringement of the registered mark. In Bevit Pharmaceutical ltd. vs. Planned Pharma Pvt. Ltd. and another 2003 (1) Bom. C.R. 314 while considering the infringement of a mark ATNOL as against a mark ENTALL-P, this Court held that emphasis placed on the existence of the suffix 'P' is uncalled for, as suffixes such as these are rarely employed in speech.
16. The Defendant No.2 has placed reliance on Section 124 of the Act and contended that the Suit ought to be adjourned and/or stayed under Section 124 of the Act. Firstly, the Defendants are yet to file their written statement to the Suit. The Defendants even in the affidavit in reply have not raised the plea regarding the invalidity of the registration of the Plaintiff's trademark. In such a case, as submitted by the Plaintiff, the reliance on Section 124 of the Act is completely baseless and misconceived and the said provision has no applicability in the state of pleadings as they stand today. Under Section 124 of the Act, it is incumbent for the Defendants, as contemplated in Section 124 (a) of the Act, to plead that the Plaintiff's trademark is invalid. This is not even a plea raised by the Defendants. In such circumstances, Section 124 of the Act has no applicability whatsoever. In the light of the aforesaid, the various judgments relied upon by the Defendants including Astrazeneca UK Ltd. vs. Orchid Chemicals 2006 (32) PTC 733 Del, Pfizer Inc. vs. Rajesh Chopra and others 2006 (32) PTC 301, BDA Pvt. Ltd. vs. Paul P. John 2008 (37) PTC 569, 669, Apex Laboratories vs. Apex Formulations 2011 (46) PTC 391 and Shakti Traders vs. Shakti Press 2008 (5) ALL MR 699 which are in the context of the power of the Court to stay the Suit are completely misconceived and inapplicable to the facts of the present case. In any case, as set out hereinabove, the judgments of the other Courts run contrary to the settled law as laid down by this Court and hence would have no applicability to the present proceedings.
17. The Defendants have also contended that the registration of the trademark does not give a person a defence against an action for passing off at the instance of a person who has a vested common law right to the marks. However, the said contention has no applicability to the facts of the present case since this is not an action of passing off by the Defendant against the Plaintiff. This aspect has also been considered by the Division Bench of this Court in the case of Bal Pharma (supra).
18. It is further contended by the Defendants that the Defendants are using the trademark since last six years and have acquired goodwill and/or reputation which is attached to the trademark MONTINA and/or MONTINAL in relation to medicinal preparation and that people have started associating the said trademark with Defendant No.2 and therefore if Defendant No.2 is restrained from using the trademark it will cause hardship to the members of the public. As correctly submitted by the Plaintiff, the said contention is without any basis. The medicinal preparation which Defendant No. 2 is selling has not acquired any distinctiveness which can be seen from the sales figures produced by Defendant No.2. In any case, the said medicinal preparation is not a patented or a rare drug which will not be found by the public at large. The contention is thus fallacious. The Plaintiff's products are in any case available in the market. This contention is also contrary to the Defendants' own contention that there are various other products available in the market. In any case, if the Defendants have developed any business by infringing the Plaintiff's mark, the Defendants cannot take shelter of the plea of public interest to continue an illegality.
19. The Defendant No.2 has also contended that the Plaintiff has made misrepresentation qua the date of user of the impugned mark by the Defendants. According to the Defendants, the Plaintiff was aware about the use of the trademark by the Defendants prior to September, 2013. However, the Defendants have not been able to show anything prior to September, 2013. This plea therefore cannot be accepted. In fact, the minuscule sales figures asserted by the Defendants strengthens the Plaintiff's contention that they were unaware of the use of the mark by the Defendant.
20. Lastly, the Defendant No.2 has contended that the balance of convenience is in their favour. In the instant case, the Defendants have not even bothered to take search in the office of the Registrar of Trade Marks. The Register of Trade Marks is open to the public and tantamounts to public notice to any one who adopts a mark. If the Defendants adopted an identical mark and in any case deceptively similar to the Plaintiff's mark then in the face of its presence in the Register of Trade Mark, the Defendants did so at its own risk and cannot claim any equity on the basis of such a user.
20.1 The issue as regards the balance of convenience in identical circumstances was also considered by the Division Bench of this Court in the case of Bal Pharma (supra) wherein the Hon'ble Court held:
"11. Finally, that brings us to the question of balance of convenience. Even on balance of convenience, we are of the view that the learned Single Judge is right. The damage caused to the goodwill of the proprietor of a trade mark may be intangible and not computable in terms of money, but it has the long term effect of devaluing the trade mark itself which is the property of the registered proprietor. Another person, who consciously or without taking the necessary steps to assure himself of the existence of such a mark, uses it and invests money therein, does not obviously have the balance of convenience in his favour. At any rate, at this stage at least, we are satisfied that the judgment of the learned Single Judge cannot be faulted on the ground of balance of convenience also. Our attention is drawn to the judgment of Kurdukar, J. dated 8th March, 1989 in Notice of Motion No. 1920 of 1988 in Suit No. 2903 of 1986, Pepsico Inc. v. Express Bottlers Services Pvt Ltd. and Anr., which was confirmed in appeal by the judgment dated 8th February 1991 in Appeal No. 436 of 1989 by the Division Bench to which one of us (B.N. Srikrishna, J.) was a party and we stand confirmed in our view."
20.2 In Wyeth Holding Corporation vs. Burnet Pharmaceutical Pvt. Ltd., [2008(2) ALL MR 405] (supra) this Hon'ble Court in the context of pharmaceutical products held in paragraph 14A that where the two competing marks are used for drugs of the same composition, the same does not justify applying a lower standard of scrutiny, than what is otherwise done in the case of pharmaceutical products.
20.3 The Defendants in support of its contention of balance of convenience have relied on certain judgments which are dealt hereinbelow:
(i) Kamat Hotels 2011 (47) PTC 111 Bom. : [2011(7) ALL MR 514] : The facts and circumstances in the said case and the business of the rival parties in the said case and present case are different. In that case the Defendant had filed proceedings for rectification of the mark of the Plaintiff which were pending. It was also found that the annual turnover of the Defendant in that case was Rs. 140 crores and that the Defendant had built up substantial reputation and therefore the Court protected the Defendant against the damage which may result to its existing enterprise which had a substantial turnover and reputation. However, the Court restrained the Defendant from starting any hotel or line of business with a mark that infringes the registered mark of the Plaintiff.
(ii) Wander Ltd. vs. Antox 1990 Supp SCC 726 : The facts and circumstances of that case and present case are totally different and thus reliance placed on the judgment is irrelevant.
(iii) Schering Corporation vs. Kiltch (Co.) Pharma Ltd. (supra): The test laid down by the said judgment to refuse injunction on the ground of inordinate delay of such nature which would disentitle the Plaintiff to the equitable relief, has not been satisfied by the Defendants in the case at hand. The reliance placed on the judgment is thus misplaced.
21. In the circumstances, the Plaintiff has made out a prima facie case in their favour. The balance of convenience is also in their favour. In view thereof, pending the hearing and final disposal of the Suit, the adinterim order dated 27th September, 2013, passed by this Court and set out in paragraph 4 above shall continue to be in force. Notice of Motion is accordingly disposed of.