Delhi High Court: In a case wherein a rectification petition was filed under Section 57 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 (‘Act’) for rectification of the Trade Marks Register by removal, from the register, of the respondents’ registered trade mark ‘INSAID’, a Single Judge Bench of C. Hari Shankar, J.* held that the present case falls entirely within the four corners of Section 11(1)(b) of the Act and thus, the registration of the respondents’ ‘INSAID’ mark could not sustained, as, owing to its similarity to the petitioner‘s existing earlier trade mark ‘INSEAD’, and the similarity of the services provided under the two marks, which were both educational services, there existed a likelihood of confusion, on the part of the public, between the two marks. Thus, the Court held that the impugned registration of the impugned device mark ‘INSAID’ should be quashed and set aside.
The petitioner and the respondents ran a business school under the name Institut Europeen D Administration Des Affaires Association (‘INSEAD’) and International School of AI and Data Science (‘INSAID’) respectively. The logos of the petitioner and the respondent were and respectively. The word mark ‘INSEAD’ was registered in the petitioner’s favour on ‘proposed to be used’ basis and the petitioner also possessed registration for the device mark in Classes 41, 35 and 16. The respondents‘ mark was registered in Class 41 covering ‘ Education; Providing of Training; Entertainment; Sporting and Cultural Activities.
The petitioner was founded in 1957 and claimed to have become the world’s foremost financial institution. The petitioner submitted that the respondents’ mark ‘INSAID’ was deceptively similar to the petitioner’s mark ‘INSEAD’. The petitioner further asserted that the two marks were phonetically indistinguishable. The petitioner submitted that it received an e-mail from a student, stating that he erroneously attended a programme of the respondent instead of the petitioner.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court observed that the petitioner’s word mark ‘INSEAD’ was registered in 2007 and its device mark was registered in Classes 16, 35 and 41 in 2012 and the respondents’ claimed user, at the earliest in 2018. The Court thus opined that the user of the petitioner’s ‘INSEAD’ mark was prior in point of time to the user claimed by the respondent in respect of the impugned ‘INSAID’ mark.
The Court did not accept the submission of the counsel for the respondents that “the marks ‘INSEAD’ and ‘INSAID’ were not phonetically similar”. The Court opined that “what was required in such cases, was phonetic similarity, and not phonetic identity. The aspect of phonetic similarity must be assessed from the point of view of the consumer, and not from the point of view of either of the parties. A consumer was a consumer of average intelligence and imperfect recollection. The consumer in question could not be treated as one who was overfamiliar with either of the marks”.
The Court opined that the classical test to apply in the matter of phonetic similarity was postulated in Pianotist Co.’s Application, Re, (1906) 23 RPC 774, wherein it was held:
“You must take the two words. You must judge them, both by their look and by their sound. You consider the goods to which they were to be applied. You must consider the nature and kind of customer who would be likely to buy those goods. In fact, you must consider all the surrounding circumstances; and you must further consider what was likely to happen if each of those trade marks was used in a normal way as a trade mark for the goods of the respective owners of the marks”
The Court observed that the Pianotist test had been applied by the Supreme Court in Amritdhara Pharmacy v. Satyadeo Gupta, (1963) 2 SCR 484; Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd., (2001) 5 SCC 73 and Khoday Distilleries Ltd. v. Scotch Whisky Assn., (2008) 10 SCC 723. The Court thus opined that the cases of infringement had to be decided based on ‘initial interest confusion’. Thus, the Court stated that if the marks were such that, when they were initially encountered by the consumer, there was a chance of confusion, infringement, ipso facto, stands made out. The fact that, later, the confusion might be dispelled, and enlightenment might dawn, did not wipe out the infringement which already stands committed.
The Court observed that under Section 11(1)(b) of the Act, a mark was disentitled to registration, if:
The mark was similar to an existing mark;
The marks were used for identical, or similar, goods or services; and
Because of the cumulative effect of these factors, there was likelihood of confusion among the public.
Thus, the Court opined that likelihood of confusion would, ipso facto, was made out, because:
‘INSAID’ and ‘INSEAD’ were phonetically similar;
They were used for similar services, of providing higher education involving AI; and
Applying the initial interest confusion principle, there was likelihood of confusion, as, given the phonetic similarity of the marks and the fact that they were acronyms for institutions providing similar services, there was likelihood of a consumer, even a student intending to take admission, on encountering ‘INSAID’ after ‘INSEAD’, being placed in a state of wonderment as to whether he had seen, or heard, the mark before.
The Court also opined that mere fact that, in the overall logos of the two marks, there might be accompanying pictorial representations or other features which might distinguish the marks as device marks, could not detract from the confusingly similar nature of the two marks. The Court further opined that prima facie the use of the acronym INSAID which was phonetically similar to the acronym of the petitioner could not be said to be honest or concurrent because Chief Executive Officer of INSAID, was well aware that the acronym of the petitioner’s institution was INSEAD but still chose to adopt the acronym INSAID.
The Court noted that no phonetic search was conducted and only a mere word mark search was conducted, which did not throw up the petitioner’s INSEAD mark as a suggested similar mark. Thus, the Court directed that, “where an application was submitted for registration of a mark which involved a word, then, even at the preliminary stage, a word mark search as well as a phonetic search should be conducted, so that the possible marks which were phonetically similar to the mark applied for, were thrown up as suggested results”.
The Court held that the present case falls entirely within the four corners of Section 11(1)(b) of the Act and thus, the registration of the respondents’ mark could not sustained, as, owing to its similarity to the petitioner’s existing earlier trade mark ‘INSEAD’, and the similarity of the services provided under the two marks, which were both educational services, there existed a likelihood of confusion, on the part of the public, between the two marks. The Court held that the impugned registration of the impugned device mark ‘INSAID’ should be quashed and set aside.
[Institut Europeen D Administration Des Affaires Association v. Fullstack Education (P) Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine Del 3016, decided on 17-5-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Petitioner: Anirudh Bakhru, Vijay Laxmi, Sejal Tayal, Raghav Vig, Yashvardhan Singh, Naqeeb Nawab, Pragya, Advocates;
For the Respondents: Balendu Shekhar, CGSC; Kunal Tandon, Niti Jain, Aanchal Khanna, Krishna Chaitanya, R.K. Maurya, Sriansh Prakash, Advocates.
*Judgment authored by: Justice C. Hari Shankar