Can God’s Name be Monopolized? ‘No’ Says the Court
This post was first published on October 19th, 2011.
BHOLE BABA MILK FOOD INDUSTRIES LTD v. PARUL FOOD SPECIALITIES PVT. LTD.-
High Court of Delhi. (Division Bench)
The Appellant has a trademark registration for the label KRISHNA with a pictorial reflection of Lord Krishna standing on a lotus flower for dairy products. The Respondent was selling ghee under the mark ‘PARUL’S LORD KRISHNA’ where the word KRISHNA was dominantly written in large font. The Appellant sought to obtain an interim order restraining the Respondent from using his mark in the said form but the order allowed the Respondent to use the mark with all three words written in the same font. This is an appeal against the said interim order and the Appellant bases its arguments on the long-standing usage and that it as acquired distinct secondary meaning. The Respondent, on the other hand, argues that KRISHNA is the name of a Hindu God commonly associated with milk and milk products and hence acquired distinctiveness cannot be claimed.
1. Whether the trademark of the Appellant has achieved secondary distinctiveness of a kind which immediately brings to mind the appellant’s product?
2. Whether the Appellant could monopolize a name ascribed to deity ‘KRISHNA’?
Dealing with the first issue, the division bench hearing the appeal held that the learned single judge was right in holding that the common word ‘KRISHNA’ has not acquired secondary distinctiveness and when used in association with dairy products, could not be associated with the Appellant’s products alone. As for the second issue the bench held that the Appellant could not monopolize the name ascribed to deity KRISHNA.
The bench held that the question of whether a common word has acquired secondary meaning or distinctiveness is a question of fact. Lord Krishna is a popular Hindu deity most commonly associated with milk and milk products and the law would lean against a deity’s name being monopolized to the exclusion of others. The bench held that “A deity may be associated with a particular kind of goods. It is common knowledge that Lord Krishna, as a child, was known for his love of milk and butter and thus Lord Krishna is closely linked with milk and butter and this would certainly dilute a proprietary claim projected by any person, in relation to Krishna with dairy products.”
The bench also upheld the learned single judge’s direction to the Respondent to use all three words of its mark PARUL’S LORD KRISHNA in the same font to avoid confusion in the minds of the public about the origin of the said goods.