This post was first published on 19th September 2011.
Tea Board, India v. I.T.C. Limited
Decided by CALCUTTA HIGH COURT on 24th August, 2011
The plaintiff is an autonomous, non-profit statutory body and was established by the Government of India for the purpose of controlling the Indian Tea Industry. This establishment is engaged in production, cultivation, marketing, sale and export of tea, encouraging research, and other numerous statutory duties and functions under the Tea Act. In order to preserve the integrity of tea sold under the name DARJEELING, the plaintiff has developed a distinctive DARJEELING logo, which consists of the image of a woman holding two-tea leaves and a bud in a roundel with the name DARJEELING prominently displayed along the top of the logo and the same was registered under class 30.
The defendant is a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 an industrial conglomerate with a presence in various commercial enterprises including the hospitality industry and owns and operates several hotels and resorts. One of the hotels owned and operated by the defendant is a hotel named ITC Sonar Bangla. The defendants were using the mark DARJEELING LOUNGE in the hotel for one of its lounges.
On becoming aware of the use of DARJEELING LOUNGE by the defendant, the Plaintiff filed a suit for infringement of its registered mark. In addition, the plaintiff also prayed for an interlocutory injunction during the pendency of the suit. The learned Single Judge of the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta, dismissed the said application for interlocutory relief with a detailed finding that the plaintiff failed to prove a strong prima facie case to grant an order of injunction. Aggrieved by the order, the plaintiff appealed before the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court.
Whether the learned Single Judge, in the facts of the present case, was justified in refusing the prayer of interim relief in favor of the plaintiff during the pendency of the suit?
Holding: Yes, the single judge was justified in rejecting the interim injunction.
The Hon’ble High Court held that ‘In the context of the G. I. Act, the learned Single Judge was right in prima facie holding that the right conferred on registration over “Darjeeling Tea” under the Act in respect of the goods “tea”, does not confer any right over the word “Darjeeling”, a geographical name, so as to prevent the defendant from rendering its services of hospitality to the public by naming one of the lounges of its hotel as “Darjeeling Lounge” In other words, grant of Geographical Indication registration over ‘Darjeeling Tea’ does not prevent others from using the word ‘Darjeeling’ independently or along with another suffix or prefix. Therefore, the court agreed that there is no prima facie case of infringement and thereby rejected the plea for an interim injunction.
Author: Kumar Anjani
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