Case BriefsDistrict Court

South East, Saket Courts, New Delhi: Naresh Kumar Laka, Additional District Judge, decided a suit with respect to partition and permanent injunction.

Instant suit was filed for partition and other reliefs by claiming that the plaintiff was a joint owner of 1/3rd share of the suit property and Defendants 1 to 5 were the joint shareholders of another 1/3rd share and Defendant 6 for remaining 1/3rd share. According to the plaintiff, the suit property was purchased by the plaintiff along with his two brothers. Defendants 1 to 5 were legal heirs of one of the brothers, and Defendant 6 was widow of the other brother. Defendants 1 to 5 contested the suit, while Defendant 6 supported the case of the plaintiff.

Preliminary Objections/Arguments

Objection 1: Defendants 1 to 5 argued that the sale deed in question (as per which the suit property was purchased by the plaintiff and his two brothers) had not been proved by the plaintiff since PW 4 (Record Keeper, Department of Delhi Archives) had failed to identify the sale deed.

Court’s Opinion: PW 4 duly proved the factum of registration of the sale deed on the basis of official record and, as such, as per proviso to Section 68 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the said sale deed stood proved and there was no other requirement under law to prove the said document.

Objection 2: It was argued by Defendants 1 to 5 that the parentage of the vendee/buyer have not been mentioned in the sale deed and, therefore, the said sale deed was not valid.

Court’s Opinion: Information mentioned on the reverse side of the sale deed was sufficient to identity the parties.

Moreover, there is no requirement under law to compulsorily mention the parentage name of transferor or transferee.

Objection 3: Defendants 1 to 5 argued that the suit property was constructed out of the funds of Raj Rani Sharma or her husband (one of the brothers, through whom Defendants 1 to 5 laid claim to the suit property as legal heirs) and plaintiff did not contribute anything and he had no source of income at that time being minor.

Court’s Opinion: As per law, the right, title and interest on immovable property are required to be decided on the basis of the title documents and even if it is presumed that the plaintiff did not contribute anything, it cannot be said that the said transaction was invalid.

Out of love and affection, a person can also contribute in the sale amount on behalf of other person and unless said fact is challenged by the former, the other persons have no right to question it. The mentioning of names as vendees in the registered sale deed clearly demonstrates the intention of the persons at the time of execution of the said document to create a right in favour of such persons. Had there been any contrary intention, names of such persons would not have been mentioned in the said sale deed.

The Court also observed it to be settled law that amount spent in raising construction of a house cannot disentitle the title holder of the said property and instead thereof such person who raised construction can claim recovery of the said amount, if desired, as per law by filing separate suit.

Objection 4: It was argued by Defendants 1 to 5 that the plaintiff was minor at the time of registration of sale deed and, therefore, the said document was invalid.

Court’s Opinion: The Court found no provision under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 which provided that any sale transaction in favour of a minor was invalid rather there are other various provisions in the Act which provide that an interest can be transferred in favour of an unborn child in womb.

Noting that the rule that a minor’s agreement is void ab initio which was laid down in the famous case of Mohiri Bibi v. Dharmodass Ghose, (1903) 30 Cal. 539, was propounded in minors’ favour for their protection, the Court observed that the law does not regard a minor as incapable for accepting a benefit.

Further, the Court stated that even if it is presumed that the plaintiff was minor at the time of registration of sale deed, it does not make the said sale deed invalid. At the most it could have been challenged by the vendor or the person claiming through said vendor and not by the other joint shareholders/transferee or the person claiming through them, which is not permissible under the law.

Objection 5: There was assertion by Defendants 1 to 5 that the instant suit was barred by limitation and the plaintiff did not claim any share for the last more than 40 years.

Court’s Opinion: A cause of action for a suit for partition accrues only when partition is claimed and it is denied or when the plaintiff is ousted from the property and the defendant starts claiming his own exclusive ownership adversely to the plaintiff. In the plaint, it was claimed by plaintiff that his claim for partition was denied in September, 2013 and the present suit was filed in November 2014. No contrary evidence was led by the defendants to prove that the plaintiff ever demanded partition earlier which was denied.

Issues in Detail

  • Whether the suit property against which partition has been claimed and the property in occupation of defendant are same or different? Onus on both parties.

Physical Identification

In the present matter, plaintiff as well as Defendants 1 to 5 have placed on record the site plan of the suit property and from comparison of both, it was clear that both represent to the same physical structure of the property. Defendants 1 to 5 had also admitted that the site plan on record by the plaintiff was correct. Hence, there was no dispute on the physical identification of the said property.

Identification of the suit property vis-a-vis sale deed 

The Court stated that it is well settled that the standard of proof in civil cases and criminal cases is quite different. Plaintiff in civil suit had to merely establish his case on the touchstone of preponderance of probabilities and the defendant is not necessarily entitled to the benefit of every reasonable doubt. In the Court’s opinion, plaintiff duly proved on record the sale deed and identification of the suit property.

Therefore, the Court held that the plaintiff duly proved on record the identification of the suit property as well as the fact that it was purchased on the basis of sale deed in question only and that its subsequent municipal no. T-823A belongs to the same property i.e. plot no. 100 which has been mentioned in sale deed in question and is presently in possession of the defendants.

  • Whether plaintiff is entitled for partition of the suit property as claimed?

The Court decided in view of Issue 1 that the plaintiff was the joint owner of 1/3rd share in the suit property besides shares of Defendants 1 to 5 as 1/3rd and Defendant 6 as 1/3rd. Hence this issue was decided in favour of plaintiff and against Defendants 1 to 5.

  • Whether the plaintiff has no right, title or interest in the suit property or that the defendants are the exclusive or absolute owners of the suit property?

In view of the findings on Issue 1, the Court decided this issue in favour of plaintiff by holding that plaintiff was the joint owner of 1/3rd share in the suit property besides shares of Defendants 1 to 5 as 1/3rd and defendant 6 as 1/3rd. Defendants 1 to 5 also failed to prove the absolute ownership of Raj Rani Sharma.

  • Whether the plaintiff is entitled to a decree of perpetual injunction?

In view of the findings on Issue 1, this issue was decided in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants and all the defendants were restrained to create any third party interest in the suit property against the interest of plaintiff or without due process of law.

Conclusion

(i) A preliminary decree was passed by holding that the plaintiff is the joint owner of 1/3rd share in the suit property and Defendants 1 to 5 are joint owners collectively of 1/3rd share and Defendant 6 joint owner of 1/3rd share in the said property.

(ii) The parties were given an opportunity to suggest ways and means for partition of the suit property by metes and bounds (physically) or by inter se sale of the respective shares amongst themselves before passing a final decree.

(iii) A decree of permanent injunction was also passed against the defendants and they were restrained to create any third party interest in the suit property against the interest of the plaintiff or without due process of law.

(iv) Cost of the suit was also awarded to the plaintiff against Defendants 1 to 5, which will be shown in the decree-sheet.

(v) An exemplary cost was also awarded against Defendants 1 to 5 for unnecessarily contesting the instant suit without any plausible basis, which was quantified at Rs 1,00,000, out of which Rs 80,000 to be paid to the plaintiff and Rs 20,000 to the Saket Bar Association Welfare Fund within 30 days.

[Ved Prakash Sharma v. Hunny Sharma, CS No. 11084 of 2016, decided on 1-10-2021]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

United States District Court, North District of California: While issuing a permanent injunction, stating Apple could no longer prohibit developers linking to their own purchasing mechanisms, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, J., held that Epic Games failed to show how Apple Inc. was operating an illegal monopoly.

Violation of Federal and Anti-Trust Laws

Plaintiff Epic Game Inc. sued Apple Inc. alleging violations of federal and state antitrust laws and California’s unfair competition laws based upon Apple’s operation of its App Store.

Epic Games claimed that Apple is an antitrust monopolist over:

  • Apple’s own system of distributing apps on Apple’s own devices in the App Store and
  • Apple’s own system of collecting payments and commissions of purchases made on Apple’s own devices in the App Store.

Antitrust jurisprudence also evaluates both market structure and behavior to determine whether an actor is using its place in the market to artificially restrain competition.

Apple argued that it does not enjoy monopoly power, and therefore does not violate federal and state law.

Trial did show that Apple was engaging in anti-competitive conduct under California’s competition laws. Further, the Court concluded that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice.

Since Apple has created an ecosystem with interlocking rules and regulations, it is difficult to evaluate any specific restriction in isolation or in a vacuum. Thus, looking at the combination of the challenged restrictions and Apple’s justifications, and lack thereof, the Court found that common threads run through Apple’s practices which unreasonably restrains competition and harm consumers, namely the lack of information and transparency about policies that effect consumers’ ability to find cheaper prices, increased customer service, and options regarding their purchases.

Apple employs these policies so that it can extract supracompetitive commissions from this highly lucrative gaming industry.

Background

In 2010, Epic Games agreed to and signed a Developer Product Licensing Agreement (“DPLA”) with Apple. Epic International subsequently signed a Developer Agreement and DPLA (for the account associated with Unreal Engine). At the time of the signing of these contracts, Mr. Sweeney understood and agreed to key contractual terms including, that Epic Games (i) was required to pay a commission on in-app purchases; (ii) was prohibited from putting a store within the App Store; (iii) was prohibited from sideloading apps on to iOS devices; and (iv) was required to use Apple’s commerce technology for any payments. Knowing the terms, Epic Games chose to enter into those contracts.

Analysis

Apples’ product Market Theory

Court considered whether the App Store provides two-sided transaction services or as Epic Games argued “distribution services”.

The Supreme Court has seemingly resolved the question: two-sided transaction platforms sell transactions. In two-sided markets, a seller “offers different products or services to two different groups who both depend on the platform to intermediate between them.”

Court found that the relevant App store product is transactions, not services, but that providing transactions may include facilitating services.

Apps or Digital Game Transactions?

Whether to narrow the scope of the transactions in terms of defining the product market.

Court concluded that the appropriate submarket to consider is digital game transactions as compared to general non-gaming apps.

Further, the Court stated that there were nine indicia indicating a submarket for gaming apps as opposed to non-gaming apps:

  • the App Store’s business model is fundamentally built upon lucrative gaming transactions;
  • gaming apps constitute a significant majority of the App Store’s revenues;
  • both the gaming, mobile, and software industry, as well as the general public, recognize a distinction between gaming apps and non-gaming apps;
  • gaming apps and their transactions exhibit peculiar characteristics and users;
  • game app developers often employ specialized technology inherent and unique to that industry in the development of their product;
  • game apps further have distinct producers—game developers—that generally specialize in the production of only gaming apps;
  • game apps are subject to distinct pricing structures as compared to other categories of apps;
  • games and gaming transactions are sold by specialized vendors; and
  • game apps are subject to unique and emerging competitive pressures, that differs in both kind and degree from the competition in the market for non-gaming apps.

Between digital game transactions and all app transactions, the relevant product is game transactions.

All Gaming Transactions or Mobile Gaming Transactions?

Court observed that the appropriate submarket to consider is the mobile gaming transactions market.

On a careful consideration of the evidence, Court found that Apples’ app distribution restrictions do have some anti-competitive effects. Unlike the increased merchant fees in Amex, Apple’s maintenance of its commission rate stems from market power, not competition in changing markets

Apple has shown procompetitive justifications based on security and the corollary interbrand competition, as well as generally with respect to intellectual property rights.

Epic Games has not met its burden to show that its proposed alternatives are “virtually as effective” as the current distribution model and can be implemented “without significantly increased cost.

California’s Unfair Competition Law

Epic Games challenges Apple’s conduct under the “unlawful” and “unfair” provisions of the UCL.

Court found that Epic Games has the standing to bring a UCL claim as a quasi-consumer, not merely as a competitor.

Since Epic could not show a violation of law, the claim under the “unlawful” standard failed.

Remedies

While Apple’s conduct did not fall within the confines of traditional antitrust law, the conduct fell within the purview of an incipient antitrust violation with particular anti-competitive practices which have not been justified.

Apple contractually enforces silence, in the form of anti-steering provisions, and gains a competitive advantage. Moreover, it hides information for consumer choice which is not easily remedied with money damages.

 Apple’s business justifications focus on other parts of the Apple ecosystem and will not be significantly impacted by the increase of information to and choice for consumers.

 A nationwide injunction shall issue enjoining Apple from prohibiting developers to include in their:

Apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to IAP.

Nor may Apple prohibit developers from:

Communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

The Court concluded that Epic Games has not shown that the DPLA is unconscionable. A contractual term is not unconscionable unless it is found to be both procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Here, the absence of substantive unconscionability is dispositive. A contractual term is not substantively unconscionable unless it so “one-sided so as to ‘shock the conscience”

Epic Games pointed to no other evidence or authority based upon which the Court could find that the provisions at issue “shock the conscience.”

These are billion and trillion dollar companies with a business dispute.  

Breach of Contract

 Under California law, “the elements of a cause of action for breach of contract are (1) the existence of the contract, (2) plaintiff’s performance or excuse for nonperformance, (3) defendant’s breach, and (4) the resulting damages to the plaintiff.” Oasis W. Realty, LLC v. Goldman, 51 Cal. 4th 811, 821 (2011)

Further, it was contended that, Epic Games’ actions violated the DPLA provisions

(1) requiring developers not to “hide, misrepresent or obscure any features, content, services or functionality” in their apps and not to “provide, unlock or enable additional features or functionality through distribution mechanisms other than the App Store,”; and

(2) requiring Epic Games to pay Apple “a commission equal to thirty percent (30%) of all prices payable by each end-user” through the App Store.

For the above argument, Court concluded that Epic games breached the provisions of DPLA and that Apple was entitled to relief for the violations.

Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Since Court had concluded that Apple was entitled to relief on its breach of contract claim, the Court denied relief to Apple as to its alternative claim for the breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Unjust Enrichment

 Apple asserts a counterclaim for unjust enrichment against plaintiff based on its alleged failure to pay Apple the agreed-upon 30% commission under the DPLA, but it asserts this counterclaim only “[i]n the alternative” to its claim for breach of contract.

The above stated alternative claim was denied.

Indemnification

Under California law, “[a]n indemnity agreement is to be interpreted according to the language and contents of the contract as well as the intention of the parties as indicated by the contract.” Myers Bldg. Indus., Ltd. v. Interface Tech., Inc., 13 Cal. App. 4th 949, 968 (1993)

Apple contended that it is entitled to indemnification from Epic Games under the indemnification provision because plaintiff’s lawsuit involved claims arising from or related to its breaches of its certifications, covenants, obligations, representations, or warranties under the DPLA, and its use of the Apple Software or services, its licensed application information, its covered products, and its development and distribution of the foregoing.

No such express language was included in the indemnification provision at issue.

In light of the absence of such express language, and in light of the terms used in the indemnification provision that suggested that it covers only third-party claims, the Court found and concluded that Apple has not shown that it is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and costs from Epic Games pursuant to Section 10 of the DPLA.

Conclusion

Apple sought a declaratory judgment that:

  • DPLA is valid, lawful, and enforceable contracts
  • Apple’s termination of the DPLA with Epic Games was valid, lawful and enforceable
  • Apple has the contractual right to terminate the DPLA with any or all of the Epic games’ wholly owned subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other entities under its control; and
  • Apple has the contractual right to terminate the DPLA with any or all of the Epic Affiliates for any reason or no reason upon 30 days written notice, or effective immediately for any “misleading fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act relating to” the DPLA.

Epic Games had contended that Apple was not entitled to the above-stated judgment and Apple’s termination of the DPLA as to Epic Games was “unlawful” retaliation.

Bench stated that the present matter does not involve retaliation.

Epic Games never showed why it had to breach its agreements to challenge the conduct litigated.

In Court’s opinion, plaintiff’s challenges to Apple’s claim for declaratory relief failed as to the remaining requests.

Relief to which Apple was entitled is that to which Epic Games stipulated in the event that the Court found it liable for breach of contract, namely:

  • damages in an amount equal to (i) 30% of the $12,167,719 in revenue Epic Games collected from users in the Fortnite app on iOS through Epic Direct Payment between August and October 2020, plus (ii) 30% of any such revenue Epic Games collected from November 1, 2020, through the date of judgment; and
  • a declaration that (i) Apple’s termination of the DPLA and the related agreements between Epic Games and Apple was valid, lawful, and enforceable, and (ii) Apple has the contractual right to terminate its DPLA with any or all of Epic Games’ wholly owned subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other entities under Epic Games’ control at any time and at Apple’s sole discretion.

Final Words

As a major player in the wider video gaming industry, Epic Games brought this lawsuit to challenge Apple’s control over access to a considerable portion of this submarket for mobile gaming transactions. Ultimately, Epic Games overreached.

Court did not find Apple as an antitrust monopolist in the submarket for mobile gaming transactions. Though, the Court did find Apple’s conduct in enforcing anti-steering restrictions to be anti-competitive.

In view of the above discussion, Court gave the verdict in favour of Apple except with respect to violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and only partially with respect to its claim for declaratory relief.

Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them were hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from

  • including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and
  • communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

Injunction which was previously ordered was terminated.[Epic Games Inc. v. Apple Inc., Case No. 4:20-cv-05640-YGR, decided on 10-09-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of L. Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai, JJ has, in two judgments, has held that where the plaintiff’s title is not in dispute or under a cloud, a suit for injunction could be decided with reference to the finding on possession.

“… if the matter involves complicated questions of fact and law relating to title, the court will relegate the parties to the remedy by way of comprehensive suit for declaration of title, instead of deciding the issue in a suit for mere injunction.”

While where there are necessary pleadings regarding title and appropriate issue relating to title on which parties lead evidence, if the matter involved is simple and straightforward, the court may decide upon the issue regarding title, even in a suit for injunction; such cases are the exception to the normal rule that question of title will not be decided in suits for injunction.

Below are two important rulings on the issue suits for prohibitory injunction relating to immovable property

Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy, (2008) 4 SCC 594

(a) Where a cloud is raised over the plaintiff’s title and he does not have possession, a suit for declaration and possession, with or without a consequential injunction, is the remedy. Where the plaintiff’s title is not in dispute or under a cloud, but he is out of possession, he has to sue for possession with a consequential injunction. Where there is merely an interference with the plaintiff’s lawful possession or threat of dispossession, it is sufficient to sue for an injunction simpliciter.

(b) As a suit for injunction simpliciter is concerned only with possession, normally the issue of title will not be directly and substantially in issue. The prayer for injunction will be decided with reference to the   finding   on   possession.   But   in   cases where de jure possession has to be established on the basis of title to the property, as in the case of vacant sites, the issue of title may directly and substantially arise for consideration, as without a finding thereon, it will not be possible to decide the issue of possession.

(c) But a finding on title cannot be recorded in a suit for injunction, unless there are necessary pleadings and appropriate issue regarding title. Where the averments regarding title are absent in a plaint and where there is no issue relating to title, the court will not investigate or examine or render a finding on a question of title, in a suit for injunction. Even where there are necessary pleadings and issue, if the matter involves complicated questions of fact and law relating to title, the court will relegate the parties to the remedy by way of comprehensive suit for declaration of title, instead of deciding the issue in a suit for mere injunction.

(d) Where there are necessary pleadings regarding title, and appropriate issue relating to title on which parties lead evidence, if the matter involved is simple and straightforward, the court may decide upon the issue regarding title, even in a suit for injunction. But such cases, are the exception to the normal rule that question of title will not be decided in suits for injunction. But persons having clear title and possession suing for injunction, should not be driven to the costlier and more cumbersome remedy of a suit for declaration, merely because some meddler vexatiously or wrongfully makes a claim or tries to encroach upon his property. The court should use its discretion carefully to identify cases where it will enquire into title and cases where it will refer to the plaintiff to a more comprehensive declaratory suit, depending upon the facts of the case.

Jharkhand State Housing Board v. Didar Singh, (2019) 17 SCC 692

“11. It is well settled by catena of judgments of this Court   that   in   each   and   every   case   where   the defendant disputes the title of the plaintiff it is not necessary that in all those cases plaintiff has to seek the relief of declaration. A suit for mere injunction does not lie only when the defendant raises a genuine dispute with regard to title and when he raises a cloud over the title of the plaintiff, then necessarily in those circumstances, plaintiff cannot maintain a suit for bare injunction.”

[KAYALULLA PARAMBATH MOIDU  HAJI v. NAMBOODIYIL VINODAN, CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 5575­5576 OF 2021 and T.V. RAMAKRISHNA REDDY v. M. MALLAPPA, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 675, decided on 07.09.2021]


*Judgments by: Justice BR Gavai

Know Thy Judge| Justice B.R. Gavai

Appearance in first case:

For appellant/plaintiffs: Senior Advocate P.N. Ravindran

For Respondent/Defendant: Senior Advocate V. Chitambaresh

Appearance in second case:

For appellant/plaintiffs: Senior Advocate Ajit Bhasme

For BDA: Advocate S.K. Kulkarni

For respondent: Senior Advocate Basava Prabhu S. Patil

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J. while addressing the matter, expressed that

“…in the opinion of this Court, all cases of family disputes cannot be characterised as cases under the DV Act.”

Plaintiff had filed a suit against his son and daughter-in-law, respectively.

In view of various disputes between the plaintiff and his son/daughter-in-law, he sought the permanent and mandatory injunction, damages seeking vacant and peaceful possession of the suit property and removal of his son and daughter-in-law. Damages and mesne profits were also sought by the plaintiff.

 Issues:

  • Condonation of delay of 342 days, in filing the present second appeal.
  • Merits of matter.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court stated that there was no delay in filing the present appeal.

Several disputes arose amongst the said family members, which, according to Plaintiff, were due to the interference of the family members of the daughter-in-law, including the mother and the brothers of the daughter-in-law.

There was no document on record to show the existence of a HUF, of which, Plaintiff was alleged to be the Karta.

Plea of ‘shared household’ appeared to have clearly been put up on behalf of the daughter-in-law, as a faint plea, and as an argument of last resort.

There were no complaints that had been preferred against the father-in-law and there were no cases filed or pending under the DV Act, or any other legislation at the instance of the daughter-in-law.

Further, the Bench stated that the father was merely seeking to evict both his son and daughter-in-law, on the strength of his ownership of the suit property.

Adding to the above, Court stated that the settled position of law is that proceedings under the DV Act are not required and the same can also be raised as defence in the suit, the basic requirements of the said Act ought to be satisfied.

The present is not a case where the case set up is one under the DV Act, involving domestic violence. 

High Court highlighted the peculiar facts:

  • The ownership of the Plaintiff in the suit property is not in dispute.
  • The sale of the property of the mother, which took place in 2011, was never challenged by the Defendants.
  • The purchase of this suit property in the name of the Plaintiff was never challenged by the Defendants.
  • There is no complaint of Domestic Violence raised by the daughter-in-law before any forum. In fact, to the contrary, the Plaintiff has filed complaints against his son and daughter-in-law with police repeatedly, alleging ill-treatment and abuse.
  • The Defendants i.e., the son and daughter-in-law are living together peacefully. The written statement before the trial court was filed jointly. The first appeal was also filed jointly, and so is the present second appeal. There is no estrangement or marital discord between them.
  • The order passed in the application under Order XII Rule 6 CPC has also been executed and the Defendants have already moved out of the suit property and are living in alternate premises.

In light of the above stated facts and noting that they are distinguishable from the facts of Satish Chandra Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, [2020 (11) SCALE 476] and Vanitha v. Deputy Commr., [2020 (14) SCALE 210]

Court dismissed the appeal. [Aarti Sharma v. Ganga Saran, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4110, decided on 24-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Appellants: Zahid Ali, Advocate

For the Respondent: Ashok Kumar Tiwari, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: P. Krishna Bhat J., set aside the impugned order with a direction to the Court to hear and dispose of the applications afresh by giving an opportunity to both sides and in accordance with the law.

The facts of the case are such that the respondent/plaintiff in the original suit is doing business under the name ‘Matru Ayurveda’ since the year 2015 having trademark deceptively similar to the appellant/defendant who started his business in the year 2018 with his trademark ‘Matruveda’, thereby established contacts of the respondent/plaintiff got deceived and she has suffered huge losses. Therefore she prayed for a decree of permanent injunction to restrain the appellant/defendant from infringing respondent/plaintiff established registered trademark ‘Matru Ayurveda’ by using the offending trademark ‘Matruveda’ in the preparation, sale and distribution of herbal products or by using a deceptively similar well established and registered trademark ‘Matru Ayurveda’. A suit and applications under Order XXXIX Rule 1 and 2 CPC was filed wherein temporary injunction was granted and appellant/defendant were restrained from infringing and passing off of the respondent/plaintiff registered trademark. Assailing this order, the instant appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellant/defendant submitted that the plaintiff had started her business under the tradename and trademark ‘Matru Ayurveda’ which is laid inside a logo and similarly the appellant/defendant had started his business under the tradename ‘Matruveda’ with a logo and there is no such resemblance between the same as will lead any purchaser of the products of either parties to confuse between the same. It was further submitted that he had no opportunity of producing documents in support of his stand that the trademark of the appellant/defendant is not deceptively similar to the trademark of the respondent/plaintiff and further that there were several manufacturers who are using trademarks closely similar to the trademark of the respondent/plaintiff and the defendant with the prefixes ‘Matro’.

Counsel for the respondent/plaintiff submitted that the trademark got registered by the appellant/defendant is subsequent to the registration of the trademark of the respondent/plaintiff. It was further submitted that the respondent/plaintiff is a well-established businesswoman who has been marketing her products ever since the year 2015 and the appellant/defendant had started his business only in the year 2018. It was further contended that on account of the close resemblance of the trademark of the defendant with that of the plaintiff, the business of the respondent/plaintiff has been affected drastically and therefore the appellant/defendant is liable to be injuncted from carrying on his business under the trademark ‘Matruveda’.

The Court observed that as per Section 2 (1) (zb) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, the ‘trademark’ is totally different from the trade name. There may be cases where trade name is also the trade mark but in very many cases it may not be so.

The Court further observed that in the present case there cannot be any dispute that trade names are only a part of the composite whole of the trade mark. The Court while deciding such cases should have in mind the ‘quintessential common man’ who goes to the neighborhood shop with the idea of purchasing product of his liking. Quoting the Court “Has not the Hon’ble Supreme Court said …in order to come to the conclusion whether one mark is deceptively similar to another, the broad and essential features of the two are to be considered…”

The Court thus held that the “impugned order is totally bereft of any discussion of the same. Absent of such discussion, weight of authorities dictate that the impugned order be characterized as perverse and resultantly it is liable to be set aside.”

In view of the above, appeal was disposed off.[N. Dinesh Kumar v. Shweta Khandelwal, Miscellaneous First Appeal No. 790/2021, decided on 15-03-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: C. Hari Shankar, J., expressed while addressing a dispute that:

“Where a valid arbitration agreement exists, the decision also underscores the position that, ordinarily, the disputes between the parties ought to be referred to arbitration, and it is only where a clear “chalk and cheese” case of non- arbitrability is found to exist, that the court would refrain from permitting invocation of the arbitration clause.”

The present suit has sought a decree of permanent injunction, restraining the defendants from dealing in electric bikes having a throttle, using “Hero” or any mark deceptively similar as a trademark, brand name or tradename as it infringes the said mark, or result in passing off the defendant’s electric bikes having a throttle as those of the plaintiffs.

Defendants had filed IA 3381/2020 under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, seeking reference of the disputes, forming the subject matter of the suit, to arbitration.

Controversy  

Plaintiff 2 claimed to have started its business of electric vehicles and to have launched battery fitted electric cycles and scooters under the well-known trademarks “Hero” and “Hero Electric”.

The said marks were registered under the Trade Marks Rules, 2002. Hero Exports used to be a partnership firm of all the members of the Munjal Group and vide a Family Settlement Agreement, the businesses of the group were divided among 4 family groups designated as – F-1, F-2, F-3 and F-4.

As per the plaintiff Hero Exports along with its business was transferred to F-1 group.

Plaintiffs belong to F-1 Group and defendants to F-4 Group.

Further, it has been submitted that parallelly with the Family Settlement Agreement, a “Trade Mark and Name Agreement” (TMNA), was executed, which assigned the right to use the trademark “Hero”, and its variants, among the Family Groups, in relation to the products and services to which the business of each group catered, to the exclusion of other groups. The plaintiff asserts that the TMNA conferred, on the F-1 group, the exclusive right to use the trademarks “Hero” and “Hero Electric”, and its variants, on all-electric vehicles, including electric bikes.

Partners of Hero Exports incorporated Hero Electric Vehicles (P) Ltd. –Plaintiff 1 to conduct the business of electric vehicles and further it was asserted that Hero Exports gave a license to HEVPL to use the trademarks of Hero Exports in respect of electric vehicles and further to proceed against third parties who sought to infringe the said trademark.

HEVPL has become the single source identifier of electric vehicles sold under the marks “Hero” and “Hero Electric”, and has exclusive statutory and common law rights over the “Hero” and “Hero Electric” trademarks in relation to electric vehicles, which include electric bikes.

Plaint alleged that Lectro was manufacturing and selling electric bikes through Hero Electric under the brand “Hero”.

The plaintiffs espied Lectro selling and promoting throttle assisted electric bikes under the brand name “Hero”. This, according to the plaint, was completely mala fide, as the defendants were aware that the exclusive right to use the trademark “Hero” and “Hero Electric”, for electric vehicles, vested in the plaintiffs, who had built up a reputation in that regard.

Defendants with the above act encroached upon the exclusive contractual statutory and common law rights of the plaintiffs in the trademarks “Hero” and “Hero Electric”.

Analysis

In the Supreme Court decision of Vidya Drolia v. Durga Trading Corpn., (2021) 2 SCC 1,  Court authoritatively expounded on the scope of the jurisdiction of a Court, examining and application under Section 8 of the 1996 Act.

Bench observed that the decision in Vidya Drolia has been followed by this Court as well as by other High Courts.

Further while discussing the principles that emerged from the above decision, Court stressed upon criterion (viii), which as follows:

(viii) The scope of examination by the Court exercising jurisdiction under Section 8 or under Section 11, is prima facie in nature. The Court is not to enter into the merits of the case between the parties. It is only to examine whether the dispute is prima facie arbitrable under a valid arbitration agreement. This prima facie examination is intended to weed out manifestly and ex facie non-existent or invalid arbitration agreements or non-arbitrable disputes, thereby cutting the deadwood and trimming off the side branches, in cases where the litigation cannot be permitted to proceed. The proceedings are preliminary and summary in nature and should not result in a mini-trial. Unless there is a clear case of non-existence of a valid arbitration agreement, or of the dispute being ex facie non-arbitrable, tested on the above parameters, the court should leave these aspects to be decided by a competently constituted arbitral tribunal. Relegation to arbitration should be regarded as a rule, and resolution by the civil court, where a valid arbitration agreement exists and is sought to be invoked by one of the parties, as an exception. The expression “chalk and cheese situation”, as used by this Court has, in this background, been approved by the Supreme Court. “When in doubt,” says Ramana, J., in his concurring opinion, “refer”. (Having said that, the “doubt”, in my view, has to be real and substantial, and not merely an escape route to avoid examining the issue in perspective.) 

Adding to the above, Bench stated that while examining the aspect of arbitrability of the dispute, or the existence of a valid arbitration agreement binding the parties, in exercise of Section 8, Court has to always remain alive to the fact that it is exercising the very same jurisdiction which the Arbitral Tribunal is empowered to exercise.

“…where the Court finds the case to be “chalk and cheese”, and where referring the matter to the arbitral process would be opposed to public interest or public policy, and a futility ex facie, that the Court should nip the request for referring the dispute to arbitration in the bud.”

Bench agreeing with Mr Akhil Sibal stated that the dispute between the plaintiffs and the defendants required a holistic appreciation of the FSA and the TMNA, their various covenants and the interplay, in order to adjudicate on the rights conferred on the various family groups.

Adding to the above, court stated that the disputes between parties are ex-facie arbitrable in nature, seen in the light of the provisions of the FSA and TMNA.

The controversy, in the present case, does not relate to grant, or registration, of trademarks. The trademarks already stood granted, and registered, prior to the FSA and TMNA.

The dispute is regarding the Family Group to which the rights to use the said trademarks, in connection with electric cycles and e-cycles had been assigned, by the FSA and TMNA.

Bench in view of the above stated that the dispute does not fall under any of the categories of disputes excepted by the Supreme Court, from the arbitral umbrella.

The right that the plaintiffs seek to assert, in the plaint, is clearly against the F-4 group, and the F-4 group alone, and not against the whole world.

The dispute is clearly inter-se amongst two Family Groups, pillowed on the rights emanating from the Family Settlement Agreement and Trade Mark and Name Agreement and essentially alleged infraction of the terms of the FSA and TMNA, not of the provisions of the Trade Marks Act.

The right asserted by the plaintiffs is not a right that emanates from the Trade Marks Act, but a right that emanates from the FSA and the TMNA, and is not asserted vis-à-vis the whole world, but is asserted specifically vis-à-vis the F-4 Family Group.

In view of the above discussion, Court decided that it would be more appropriate if the petitioner were to present the present plaint before the Arbitrator and seek any interim or interlocutory relief as it may choose under Section 17 of the 1996 Act.

Hence, the suit shall be referred to Arbitration, parties would be at liberty to appoint the arbitrator/arbitrators in accordance with the covenants of the FSA and TMNA and or approach the Court.[Hero Electric Vehicles (P) Ltd. v. Lectro E-Mobility (P) Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1058, decided on 02-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the plaintiffs: Mr Sudhir Chandra, Sr. Adv. with Mr Ankur Sangal, Mr Sahil Narang, Ms. Pragya Mishra and Ms Richa Bhargava, Advs.

For the Defendants: Mr Akhil Sibal, Sr. Adv. with Mr Vikas Mishra, Ms Malini Sud, Mr Nikhil Chawla, Ms Shriya Mishra, Advs.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: R. Raghunandan Rao, J., addressed a matter wherein the law relating to Trade Mark and Passing off was highlighted wherein the trademarks of the parties are similar or identical.

Permanent Injunction was sought by the respondent to restrain the appellant from infringing on the trademarks or passing off trademarks held by the respondent and further sought for damages, rendition of accounts under the Trademarks Act, 1999 and infringement of Copy Rights Act, 1957 against the appellant.

Background

Plaintiff had been carrying on the business of manufacture of white lime wash and distributing and selling the same under the flagship brand name Surya and the device mark of “Rising Sun”.

Plaintiff had been using the mark “Surya” in collocation with various other words and in a combination with the device “Rising Sun with seven rays”.

Unique, uncommon and distinctive features of the trademarks “SURYA” and logo “SUN” are an inventive combination.

Plaintiff submitted that under the common law and as a result of extensive prior usage since 1985, vested rights in the Trademark “SUN” as a logo and “SURYA” as a word and to protect the same have already filed Trademark Applications and the same is pending.

Plantiff’s case was that the plaintiff’s mark came to obtain recognition among the general public relating to the standard and quality of the products of the plaintiff and is recognized all over the country.

Hence, plaintiff claimed that its mark “Surya” which is recognized all over the country would be treated as a well known mark defined under Section 2 (zg) of the Trademarks Act, 1999.

Plaintiff filed a criminal complaint against the defendant on knowing that he was indulging in illegal activity by selling its products by adopting the name “Surya Magica White”.

But the stated criminal complaint was not acted upon, which compelled the plaintiff to file a private complaint which again came to be pending, therefore plaintiff approached the Court.

Defendants’ use of the essential features of the plaintiff mark demonstrates that his instent was to utilise the goodwill of the plaintiff by deceiving the general public.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench reviewed the law relating to Trade Marks.

While reviewing the same, Court stated that the Act regulates the recognition of trade marks, their registration and protection.

Protection of Trade Marks is defined in Section 2(1)(zb):

“Trade Mark” means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours; and 

(i) in relation to ChapterXII (other than section 107), a registered trade mark or a mark used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right as proprietor to use the mark; and

(ii) in relation to other provisions of this Act, a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right, either as proprietor or by way of permitted use, to use the mark whether with or without any indications of the identity of that person, and includes a certification trade mark or collective mark.

The primary purpose of the a trade mark is to indicate the source of the goods/services that are sold in the market.

Whenever and wherever if there is an attempt to deceive buyers about the source of goods/services with usage of an identical or similar Trade Mark the law would assist the proprietor of the trade mark to protect his identity as the only supplier of the said goods/services.

Section 29. Infringement of registered trademarks:

Bench added to its analysis that there could be a case of infringement where there is similarity in the trade mark or where trademarks are identical, leading to confusion in the mind of the buyer that the goods being purchased by him under the offending trade mark are the goods being produced or sold by the proprietor of the original trade mark.

Test of the likelihood of confusion or deception arising from similarity of marks is the same both in infringement and passing of actions.

Question that generally needs to be answered by the Court in a Trade Mark case, filed as an action of passing off or an action for infringement:

Whether a buyer would get confused between the goods of the Defendant and the plaintiff because of the usage of the offending trademark by the defendant?

In regard to the instant case, Bench noted that an action for infringement and passing off, both have been sought.

For passing off action, plaintiff failed to produce any evidence of the quantum and length of sales, reputation or goodwill built, therefore no action for passing off can be looked into.

Action for infringement

For the said action, plaintiff has to demonstrate that his trademark is registered and the defendant’s trademark is similar enough to the plaintiff’s trademark which would in result create confusion in the minds of the buyers.

In the present case, the trademark of the plaintiff is registered, both the parties are selling goods which are falling in the same category.

In view of the above, the only question that remains is:

Whether they are creating confusion in the minds of the buyers?

Court stated that the plaintiff has claimed that he has a trade mark in the name “Surya”, which is a generic word which connotes “Sun”.

In the above-stated circumstances, plaintiff/respondent cannot contend that he has a trademark on the name “Surya”.

In the present case, however, the plaintiff submitted that the mark is “Surya” written in a specific style with a specific foreground and background.

Even though, there cannot be a trade mark in the name “Surya” there could always be a trade mark in a particular stylistic way of using the word “Surya”.

Since the trademarks exhibited by plaintiff had been the words “Surya Cem or Surya Agrilline” etc., the trademark would have to be construed as a collocation of both the words Surya and Cem or Surya Lime or mortar etc.

Perusal fo the above discussion would depict that the trade mark of the defendant would show that there are differences in the manner in which the word “Surya” is depicted.

Hence, it can’t be said that the trademarks of the plaintiff and the defendant are identical or totally similar.

Supreme Court’s decision in Ruston & Hornsby Ltd. v. Zamindara Engineering Company, (1969) 2 SCC 727, it was held that in any action for infringement where the defendant’s trade mark is not the exact mark on the register but something similar to it, the test of infringement is the same as in an action for passing off.

Bench added to its observations that in the instant case, there is a possibility of a buyer going to the shop and asking for Surya cem and get confused by the mark of the defendant and accept the product of the defendant as it would be sold as Surya Blue or Surya ujala.

In light of the Delhi High Court decision of Surya Agro Oils Ltd. v. Surya Coconut Oil Industries, 1994 SCC OnLine Del 266, it will be held that there is every likelihood that buyers would tend to get confused and plaintiff would be entitled to an injunction as granted by trial court.

In view of the above, CMA was dismissed. [Gaurav Polymers v. Delight Chemicals (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine AP 1484, decided on 20-11-2020]


Advocates for the Parties:

Advocate for the petitioner: Advocate, K V Raghu Veer

Advocate for the respondent: Advocate, Ashok Ram Kumar

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta* and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that the High Court is not obliged to frame substantial question of law, in case, it finds no error in the findings recorded by the First Appellate Court.

The Court was hearing the case relating to suit for permanent injunction wherein the High had dismissed the second appeal without framing any substantial question of law. It was contended before the Court that framing of substantial question of law is mandatory in terms of Section 100 CPC and hence, the matter should be remitted back to the High Court for determination of the substantial question of law framed by the appellants.

On this, the Court explained that Sub-section (1) of Section 100 CPC contemplates that an appeal shall lie to the High Court if it is satisfied that the case involves a substantial question of law. The substantial question of law is required to be precisely stated in the memorandum of appeal. If the High Court is satisfied that such substantial question of law is involved, it is required to formulate that question. The appeal has to be heard on the question so formulated. However, the Court has the power to hear appeal on any other substantial question of law on satisfaction of the conditions laid down in the proviso of Section 100 CPC.

Therefore, if the substantial question of law framed by the appellants are found to be arising in the case, only then the High Court is required to formulate the same for consideration. If no such question arises, it is not necessary for the High Court to frame any substantial question of law.

“The formulation of substantial question of law or reformulation of the same in terms of the proviso arises only if there are some questions of law and not in the absence of any substantial question of law.”

It was the case of the appellants that the First Appellate Court had ordered that the question of jurisdiction of Civil Court would be decided first, however the appeal was decided without dealing with the said issue., thereby causing serious prejudice to the rights of the appellants. Similarly, the application under Order XLI Rule 27 of the Code was not decided which was again prejudicial to their rights.

The Court, however, found that such substantial questions of law did not arise for consideration. The issue of jurisdiction was not an issue of fact but of law. Therefore, it could very well be decided by the First Appellate Court while taking up the entire appeal for hearing.

It was noticed that the suit was simpliciter for injunction based upon possession of the property, hence, the said suit could be decided only by the Civil Court as there is no mechanism prescribed under the Land Revenue Act for grant of injunction in respect of disputes relating to possession. The Civil Court has plenary jurisdiction to entertain all disputes except in cases where the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is either expressly or impliedly barred in terms of Section 9 CPC. Since there is no implied or express bar of jurisdiction of the Civil Court in terms of Section 9 CPC, the Civil Court has plenary jurisdiction to decide all disputes between the parties.

Hence, it was held that the High Court did not commit any illegality in not framing any substantial question of law while dismissing the appeal filed by the appellants.

[Kirpa Ram v. Surendra Deo Gaur,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 935, decided on 16.11.2020]


*Justice Hemant Gupta has penned this judgment 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab & Haryana High Court: While deciding an appeal filed by the petitioner against the order passed by the Additional District Judge, Raj Mohan Singh, J., allowed the appeal setting it aside.

Petitioner has filed the instant appeal against the order dated 31-07-2020 vide which the application filed by the petitioner under Order 41 Rule 5 CPC for a stay of operation of judgment and decree dated 06-03-2020 was dismissed. Suit for permanent injunction filed by the petitioner was dismissed by the trial Court.

In the appeal filed by the petitioner against the judgment and decree dated 06-03-2020, the interim injunction has been declined on the ground that the petitioner is also a co-sharer in the suit land and suit for a permanent injunction is not maintainable against other co-sharer.

Counsel for the petitioner, Harsh Chopra cited the judgment delivered in the case of Bachan Singh v. Swaran Singh, 2000 SCC OnLine P&H 233 and Puran Singh v. Kuldeep Singh, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 1966 He further submitted that in a situation where the value or utility of the property is diminished, a co-owner can seek an injunction to prevent the same from happening.

In view of the facts, circumstances and arguments advanced the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order dated 31-07-2020. The Court also directed the parties to maintain the status quo during the pendency of the appeal.[Dalip Singh v. Surinder Jain, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 1624, decided on 08-10-2020]


Yashvardhan Shrivastav, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: V. Kameswar Rao J. rejected an application for permanent injunction by a pharmaceutical company against a rival brand, seeking an order to restraint it from infringing its registered trade mark.

The plaintiff had trademarked the terms ‘TCV’ and ‘TypbarTCV’ in 2012 in relation to a revolutionary Typhoid vaccine for children. They averred that the defendants began promoting a similar Typhoid vaccine, named ‘ZYVAC-TCV’ in late-2018, which was similar, if not identical, in composition to their product. Consequently, they filed for a permanent injunction against the defendants, seeking to prevent them from infringing its trademark, rendition of accounts/ damages and delivery, etc. The plaintiffs, claiming to be a leading manufacturer of specialised vaccines in India with a significant global presence, contended that the launch of the defendant’s vaccine is a flagrant infringement of their trademarked ‘TCV’ and that the publication and intended launch of a similar product with the ‘TCV’ trademark is confusing and, therefore, inherently a misrepresentation to the consuming public.

The defendants denied the plaintiffs claims by pleading that their mark, ‘ZYVAC-TCV,’ when considered as a whole is entirely different from the plaintiffs’ mark and that its essential feature is ‘ZYVAC.’ Moreover, the term ‘TCV’ is generic and descriptive of a category of vaccine called ‘Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine,’ which is not entitled to legal protection. They refute the plaintiff’s trademark by alleging that another entity had applied for the registration of the ‘TCV’ trademark in 2009, and the plaintiffs are, therefore, not the creator nor the prior user of the mark as claimed.

High Court accepted the defendant’s plea claiming that ‘TCV’ was a ‘descriptive adjective’ and could not receive any protection under the law, citing literature of WHO and previous judgements of the Delhi High Court where it had repeatedly held that the first use of a descriptive word as a brand mark would not entitle such a user to exclusively treat/register it as a trademark. As far as the similarity of the two competing product names are concerned, the learned Judge found that after excluding ‘TCV’ as a trademark, the terms ‘TYPBAR’ and ‘ZYVAC’ appear to have no deceptive similarity or reasonable probability for confusion between the words either phonetically or visually. Similarly, there was found to be no deceptive similarities in the packaging of the two products. Since the plaintiffs did not deny the defendant’s contention that they were not the first ones to adopt the words ‘TCV,’ the Court found the earlier entity responsible for coining the term in 2009 and used the existence of third parties selling medicinal products with the term ‘TCV’ as a sign that different products with this term can coexist in the market without confusion. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s application citing insufficient grounds for granting interim relief.[Bharat Biotech International Ltd. v. Optival Health Solutions (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Del 852 , decided on 26-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: B.P. Colabawalla, J., held that,

“Trade Mark ISKCON has come to enjoy a personality that is beyond the mere products/services rendered thereunder and the recognition, reputation and goodwill of the said trade mark ISKCON is no longer restricted to any particular class of goods or services.”

Permanent Injunction

Plaintiff had sought permanent injunction to restrain the defendants from infringing the plaintiff’s registered trademarks, passing off and other reliefs.

A decree of declaration has also been sought that the plaintiff’s trademark ISKCON is a ‘well-known trade mark’ in India.

Director of Defendant 2 has give an undertaking that the defendants will not use the trad mark / name ISKCON by itself or as a part of the trade mark / name or in any manner whatsoever including the impugned expression “Formerly known as ISKCON”.

Advocate for the plaintiff submitted that apart from the above-stated declaration, plaintiff is also entitled to a declaration that its trademark ISKCON is a well-known trademark in India.

Plaintiff has made applications/secured registrations in respect of the trade mark ISKCON and/or marks containing ISKCON as one its leading, essential, distinctive and prominent feature in respect of various goods/services/classes.

Plaintiff has been regularly, openly, continuously, uninterruptedly and extensively using the said mark ISKCON in respect of various goods and services since at least the year 1971 with a view to distinguish the goods/services bearing the said mark ISKCON from those of others.

Further the Counsel for the petitioner also submitted that parameter required to be taken into consideration for a well-known trademark as per Sections 11(6) and 11(7) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 are fulfilled in the present case.

Decision

It is clear that ISKCON is a coined trade mark of the Plaintiff, that is to say that the said term ISKCON did not exists prior to the Plaintiff’s adoption and use of the same and thus it deserves the highest degree of protection.

Plaintiff has been diligently safeguarding and protecting its rights in the said trade mark ISKCON and has initiated proceedings before various forums against the misuse of its trade mark ISKCON and been successful in enforcing its rights in its mark ISKCON.

Hence in Court’s opinion, plaintiff’s trade mark ISKCON satisfies the requirements and tests of a well-known trade mark as contained in Sections 11(6), 11(7) and other provisions of Trade Marks Act.

Therefore, Court held that trade mark ISKCON is a well-known trade mark in India within the meaning of Section 2(1) (zg)of the Trade Marks Act, 1999. [International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) v. Iskcon Appaeral (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 729 , decided on 26-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Arun Bhansali J., quashed and set aside the order of the trial court since the trial court erred in rejecting the petition seeking to implead them as a party to the suit.

The present writ petition was filed by the petitioners being aggrieved against the order passed by the Civil Judge. The respondent-plaintiff had filed a suit for declaration of easementary rights and permanent injunction in relation to the right of way and sought permanent injunction by impleading the State as well as the Tehsildar as party defendants to the suit. They had filed an application with the submission that the land in question was a cremation ground and various mausoleums of their ancestors were situated therein and thus they are seeking to be impleaded as party defendants to the suit. The Trial Court after hearing the parties came to the conclusion that the land in question belongs to the State and therefore there were no necessity of applicants being impleaded as party defendants.

The advocate representing the petitioner, Teja Ram submitted that the trial court was not justified in rejecting the application filed by the petitioners, inasmuch as admittedly the land in question was Gair Mumkin Samshan and was being used by the petitioners as the cremation ground.

The advocate representing the respondents, Roshan Lal contended that the trial court was justified in rejecting the application.

The Court upon perusal of the materials available on record stated that the trial court was not justified in rejecting the application on the ground that the land did not belong to the petitioner since the residents of the area had an interest in that land. The Court opined that the trial court should have taken a comprehensive view of the matter and observed that “…the suit was being contested on part of the defendants also was an indicator towards the nature of interest being taken by the State in defending the suit and, therefore, the rejection of application was not justified.” [Hansa Ram v. Moda, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 276, decided on 17-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J., allowed a second appeal against the order of the trial court as well as the First Appellate Court whereby the suit brought by the plaintiffs (respondents herein) for declaration of title, permanent injunction, partition and possession of the suit property was decreed.

It is pertinent to note that during the pendency of the said suit, affidavit-evidence under Order 18 Rule 4 CPC (recording of evidence) was filed by the plaintiffs. On two subsequent dates when the matter was posted, the plaintiff — Kunti Bai — was partly cross-examined. However, after that, she could not appear before the trial court though the matter was fixed for evidence from time to time. Ultimately, her opportunity to lead evidence was closed and thereafter, the suit was decreed in favour of the plaintiffs.

The question for consideration of the High Court was whether the affidavit-evidence of the Kunti Bai, which was not subjected to cross-examination, could be said to be “evidence” within the meaning of Section 3 (interpretation clause) of the Evidence Act.

The Court was of the opinion that a careful perusal of Section 3 would show that the affidavit is not included in the definition of “evidence”, and can be used only if the Court permits it for sufficient reasons. An affidavit can be termed to be an “evidence” within the ambit of Section 3 only in those cases where the same is filed at the instance or under the direction of the Court or law specifically permits for proof of anything by affidavit. Thus, the filing of an affidavit or one’s own statement, in one’s own favour, cannot be regarded as sufficient evidence for any Court.

Reliance was placed on Ayaaubkhan Noorkhan Pathan v. State of Maharashtra, (2013) 4 SCC 465, wherein the Supreme Court had held that affidavit can be relied upon when the deponent is available for cross-examination in terms of Order 18 Rule 4 CPC. The High Court held that: “Thus, it is now well settled that affidavit is not evidence within the meaning of Section 3 of the Evidence Act unless an opportunity to effectively cross-examine to the person(s) examined is given to another side as provided in Order 18 Rule 4(2) of the CPC.”

In the instant case, since the defendants did not get a proper opportunity to cross-examine Kunti Bai, the court held that the affidavit filed by her under Order 18 Rule 4 remained an affidavit and did not turn into evidence. In such view of the matter, the impugned order was set aside and the matter was remanded back to the trial court to give an opportunity to the defendants to cross-examine Kunti Bai and other prosecution witnesses. [Premlal v. Kunti Bai, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 107, decided on 11-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Narula, J. while addressing a matter in respect to trademark infringement and in lieu of that seeking a permanent injunction, discussed the concept of “acquiescence” by relying on ample of cases.

In the present case, the plaintiff sought a permanent injunction restraining the defendant from adopting and using:

  • Trademark/trade name ‘Make My travel’, MMT (letter mark) and the tag line ‘Dreams Unlimited (Impugned ‘wordmarks’);
  • The MakeMyTravel Logo, which includes the infringing word marks namely, MMT and Dreams Unlimited
  • Their domain name <makemytravelindia.com>;

The above are all stated to be violative of the plaintiff’s statutory and common law rights in its own trademarks –

  • MAKEMYTRIP
  • MMT
  • The tag lines MEMORIES UNLIMITED and HOTELS UNLIMITED.

The case of the plaintiff is that, it has presence all across India and several other countries around the world including in the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius. Over the years, the plaintiff has expanded its range of products and services beyond online travel bookings.

Plaintiff, through its primary website, www.makemytrip.com and other technology-enhanced platforms including application-based mobile platforms, etc., offers an extensive range of travel services and products, both in India and abroad.

After changing its trade name to include the words, “MakeMyTrip” on August, 2, 2000, plaintiff has been continuously and uninterruptedly using the trademarks MakeMyTrip and MMT, the MakeMyTrip Word Mark as well as the MMT letter mark. Tag Line “Memories Unlimited” and “Hotels Unlimited”, have also been continuously and uninterruptedly used by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff has earned immense reputation and goodwill on account of extensive and continuous use by the plaintiff. In order to add further distinctiveness and brand recall to its MakeMyTrip Word Mark, plaintiff has conceived, adopted and used various catchy and stylized logos, all of which contain the MakeMyTrip Word Mark, as their essential feature.

Hence, any unauthorized use of the MakeMyTrip Marks and/or any other deceptively similar mark would violate the Plaintiff?s statutory and common law rights and an effort to ride upon the immense reputation and goodwill garnered by the Plaintiff in its MakeMyTrip Marks.

Thus, being aggrieved by the adoption and use of the Infringing Mark and Infringing Domain Name, the Plaintiff, through its Counsel, issued a cease and desist notice requisitioning the Defendant to, inter alia, cease all use of the Infringing Marks and Infringing Domain Name.

It was further submitted that, infringement and passing off of plaintiff’s marks is proved by the following factors:

  • Phonetically, visually, structurally and conceptually the competing marks are identical and/or deceptively similar.
  • Identity of the idea: The mark MakeMyTravel and MakeMyTrip are combination of three words, where the first two words are identical and last word “travel” and “trip” convey the same meaning, idea and concept
  • Nature of goods and services in respect of which the trademarks are being used are identical.
  • Class of purchasers likely to use services of the Plaintiffs and the Defendants is the same.

Defendant’s submissions were as follows:

Plaintiff and its officials were aware that defendant had incorporated a company by name of Make My Travel (India) Private Limited since the year 2010-2011.

During the years 2011-2017, plaintiff and defendant entered into business transactions and on occasions, money was transferred from the account of defendant to that of the plaintiff, thus plaintiff despite being aware of the same did not raise any objection.

Further adding to the above, it has been stated that, since the very beginning. The defendant company was using the letter marks MMT in all its email accounts and other communication and the plaintiff along with its officials was aware of the same.

On May, 17th, 2018, a temporary ad-interim injunction was granted in favour of the plaintiff, according to which the following would be applied on the defendants:

“restraining the Defendant from using in any manner whatsoever, selling, offering for sale, advertising directly or indirectly dealing in any products or services under the infringing marks, namely Make My Travel (word per se), MMT (letter mark). Dreams unlimited (tag line), www.makemytravelindia.com and Make My Travel logos or any other trademark/trade name/trade dress or logo/device, which is identical to and/or deceptively similar to and/or plaintiffs MakeMyTrip logo marks, namely, MakeMyTrip (word mark), MMT (letter mark) and Memories Unlimited and Hotels Unlimited (tag line).”

Decision of the Court and its Analysis

The main relief sought in the above view was of permanent injunction and the Court has been thus called upon to deliberate the question as to whether the same should be confirmed or vacated.

While deciding the application at the preliminary stage, plaintiff under Order 39 Rule 1 & 2 as also the application of the Defendant under Order 39 Rule 4, the court has to keep in mind the well-settled principles governing the grant of injunction viz. prima facie case; balance of convenience and the harm or injury likely to be caused on account of the impugned acts of the Defendant.

High Court while taking reliance on several Supreme Court decisions, laid down the test which is to be applied while evaluating the question regarding the infringement. In F. Hoffman La Roche v. Geofferey Manners, (1969) 2 SCC 716, Supreme Court held that,

“True test is whether the totality of the proposed trade mark is such that it is likely to cause deception or confusion or mistake in the minds of persons accustomed to the existing trade mark.”

Referring to the decision in the case of, Amritdhara Pharmacy v. Satyadev Gupta, AIR 1963 SC 449, Court held that for deceptive resemblance, two important questions that need to be kept in mind are:

  • who are the persons that the resemblance must be likely to deceive or confuse and
  • what rules of comparison are to be adopted in judging whether such resemblance exists;

In the above-stated case of the Supreme Court, it was held that,

“confusion is perhaps an appropriate description of the state of mind of a consumer who on seeing a mark thinks that it differs from the mark on goods which he has previously bought, but is doubtful whether the impression is not due to imperfect recollection.”

Court while dealing with the present matter stated that while the first two words of the marks MakeMyTrip and MakeMyTravel are identical, last words, TRIP and TRAVEL are similar and convey the same idea.

Defendant’s tag line DREAMS UNLIMITED is deceptively similar to the Plaintiff’s taglines HOTELS UNLIMITED and MEMORIES UNLIMITED second word in the tag lines is identical, the first words DREAMS, MEMORIES and HOTELS, when considered in the context of travel and holiday-related services, may be used in the same context or idea.

In view of the above-stated decisions, Court stated that the plaintiff has a strong prima facie case and the balance of convenience also lies in its favour. In case the defendant is permitted to continue to use infringing marks, grave and serious prejudice is likely to be caused to the plaintiff.

Court added to its observation that, the adoption of the mark by the defendant is without any cogent explanation and it prima facie appears to be dishonest.

On perusal of the orders passed by the Court in the case of MakeMyTrip (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Orbit Corporate Leisure Travels (I) Private Limited, Court stated that in the said case, there was an agreement between the defendant’s predecessor-in-interest and the plaintiff, and this crucial factor prevailed upon the Court to accept the plea of acquiescence. In the present case, there is no such agreement on record, the plea of acquiescence is premised merely on the basis of email communications exchanged with booking customer care executives.

In Dr Reddy’s Laboratory Ltd. v. Reddy Pharmaceuticals Ltd., 2013 SCC OnLine Del 3626, the Court took note of the fact that the owners of trademarks or copyrights cannot be expected to run after every infringer and thereby remain involved in litigation at the cost of their business time, but can wait till the time the user of their name starts harming their business interests and starts misleading and confusing their customers.

Concept of “Acquiescence”

Acquiescence is a species of estoppels, a rule in enquiry and a rule of evidence and it is essential to the Acquiescence Doctrine that it is accompanied by an encouragement or an inducement: he who possesses a legal right must have encouraged the alleged violator of that right in acting to the latter’s detriment, confident in the knowledge that the former is not asserting his rights against the violator.

Thus, the Court held that defendant has no justification for the use of the infringing marks, except for the plea of suppression and acquiescence, both of which would require further and deeper scrutiny and examination during the course of the trial.

“Irreparable loss would be caused to the plaintiff if the defendant is not restrained from using the impugned marks.”

Hence, injunction order dated 17-05-2018 is made absolute and shall continue to operate during the pendency of the present suit. [Make My Trip (INDIA) (P) Ltd. v. Make My Travel (INDIA) (P) Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10638, decided on 18-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Pratibha M. Singh, J. while addressing a petition concerning the protection of the trademark ‘DA MILANO’, issued certain guidelines for the online intermediaries involved and held as follows:

“Role of Facebook and Instagram, insofar as posts put up by concerned third parties is governed by the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. Considering the provisions of the stated guidelines, online platforms which claim to be intermediaries not performing any active role in the posting of such information by 3rd party alleged infringers, have a duty only to take down the posts which are brought to their notice by plaintiff in terms of Section 79(3).

The above-mentioned guidelines along with Section 79(3) of the IT Act have been interpreted by a very significant Supreme Court case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, (2015) 5 SCC 1, “to mean that “any information received by the platforms would be by means of a Court order”.

In Shreya Singhal case, pertaining to Section 79 (3)(b), following was held which is relevant in respect to the present matter:

“Section 79(3)(b) has to be read down to mean that the intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge that a court order has been passed asking it to expeditiously remove or disable access to certain material must then fail to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material. This is for the reason that otherwise it would be very difficult for intermediaries like Google, Facebook, etc. to act when millions of requests are made and the intermediary is then to judge as to which of such requests are legitimate and which are not.”

The facts in the present case are that the plaintiff who claims to be the owner of ‘DA MILANO’ filed a suit against the Defendants 1 to 4 in respect to seek permanent injunction, restraining infringement of trademark and passing off and under Section 74 of IT Act, 2000 seeking protection of the trademark ‘DA MILANO’.

It has been further stated that, Defendants 1 to 4 are alleged infringers who have posted on “Facebook” and “Instagram” advertising and offering to sell products bearing the mark ‘DA MILANO’. Plaintiff while seeking a permanent injunction against infringers impleaded the stated online platforms to ensure that posts comprising the infringing marks are taken down.

Trial Court, had sought the personal appearance of Facebook and Instagram in the present matter. Therefore, the grievance was the direction of personal appearance of the representatives of Facebook and Instagram.

Senior Counsel, Parag Tripathi, submitted that his clients are willing to comply with interim order which has already been passed and since the said defendants are not contesting the matter on merits against the plaintiff and are merely intermediaries; their personal presence is not required.

High Court on perusal of the facts and the guidelines mentioned above along with relying on the Supreme Court case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, (2015) 5 SCC 1, agreed on the fact that the stated platforms are mere intermediaries and have no active role in the matter, which therefore demands no personal appearance. Further, the following directions were issued:

  • Plaintiff shall inform Instagram and Facebook whenever they came across use of the mark ‘DA MILANO’ either in word form, logo or in any other form on their platforms.
  • Once such information is received, as per Rule 3(4) of the 2011 Guidelines, the said posts shall be taken down, within the timelines prescribed.
  • If platforms have any doubt as to the violative or offending nature of posts, they shall intimate the plaintiff.
  • Upon any order being passed by a Court of competent jurisdiction, the same shall be intimidated to the platform, which shall abide by the said order.

Thus, the suit is decreed against Facebook and Instagram in the above terms. [Facebook Inc. v. Surinder Malik, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9887, decided on 28-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Prakash Shrivastava, J., dismissed the revision petition filed by the respondents under Section 115 CPC where they challenged the order of the Trial Court, whereby their application for rejection of plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC was rejected.

The respondents had filed the suit for declaration and permanent injunction, wherein the petitioners had filed the application for rejection of plaint which has been dismissed by the impugned order. The petitioner argued that he was carrying his business on the suit property and earlier had filed a writ petition before the High Court. The Court issued directions relating to map and permission to construct Pakka shop and for non-compliance of the said contempt was also filed, therefore, the present suit was not maintainable and the trial court had committed an error in rejecting the application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC.

The respondent submitted that post the passing of the order in Writ Petition and Contempt Petition, a lot of development has taken place and the order of the Trial Court does not suffer from any error.

The Court held that the plaint can be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC if the defendant is able to point out that any of the grounds which are mentioned in Rule 11 exists on the basis of the plaint averment. The petitioners could not point that there is any bar in entertaining the suit before the Trial Court. Merely on the basis of the order in the writ petition and in the contempt petition the plaint cannot be rejected on the ground that it does not disclose any cause of action, when otherwise in the plaint cause of action has been disclosed. The Trial court had rightly taken note of the fact that the materials on which the petitioners were placing reliance upon cannot be considered for rejection of plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC. There was no illegality in the order passed by the Trial Court and the revision petition was found to be devoid of any merit and was dismissed. [Purshottam v. Murlidhar, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 2099, decided on 22-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: Dr A.K. Rath J., quashed the order passed by Civil Judge (Junior Division) and order by Tahsildar due to fraudulent practices of the parties in a consolidation matter.

In the present case, a plot of land came into the purview of consolidation operation, wherein the Opposite Party 1 filed a consolidation revision before the Commissioner. The Commissioner had remanded the matter to the Consolidation Officer for effecting a compromise. The Opposite Party 2 had filed a compromise petition along with a trace map for partition and the Consolidation Officer had allotted 1/3rd of land to each in accordance with the trace map. The Opposite Party 2 had filed another application before the Tahsildar for the conversion of the agricultural land into a homestead.

Senior Advocate, Rajat Kumar Rath and Advocate, Sandipani Nayak representing the petitioners, submitted before the High Court that the trace map which was submitted by the Opposite Party 1 was a fraudulent copy. He put forth that the copy was forged and was an imaginary vertical sketch map; therefore the orders passed by the respective authorities were based on fabricated factual scenarios. The Senior Advocate also placed reliance on two apex court decisions which were discussed by the High Court in its order.

The Advocate representing the Opposite Party 1, Bikram Rath submitted that they were constrained in filing for a permanent injunction due to the disturbed possession in the land by the Opposite Party 2.

The High Court, before delving into the matter, discussed the two apex court decision in order to distinguish between when proceedings shall be considered “collusive and fraudulent”. It stated that in Nagubai Ammal v. B. Shama Rao, AIR 1956 SC 593, the apex court had come to a decision that in “collusive proceedings the combat is a mere sham, in a fraudulent suit it is real and earnest.” Thus stating that in collusive proceedings the claim is fictitious in nature whereas, in a fraudulent suit, the claim is untrue. Placing reliance to another two Supreme Court decisions it stated that both in S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu v. Jagannath, (1994) 1 SCC 1 and Badami v. Bhali, (2012) 11 SCC 574, the Apex Court had stated that a judgment obtained by fraudulent means should be treated with nullity notwithstanding the hierarchy of court, whether superior or inferior court passing the order/decree. It quoted Chief Justice Edward Coke of England, “Fraud avoids all judicial acts, ecclesiastical or temporal.”  The Court upon perusal of documents produced stated that it was evident that the diagram produced in the compromise petition was diametrically opposite to the consolidation case. Therefore, the court quashed both the orders passed by the Civil Judge and Tahsildar, stating that the Opposite party 1 had fraudulently induced the authorities for a favourable order and also provided an option for the Opposite Party 1 to make a fresh application for conversion of land.[Prafulla Kumar Nayak v. Khetramohan Nayak, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 238, decided on 10-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Bench of Sanjeev Kumar, J. dismissed a petition filed against the order of a Subordinate Civil Judge where the application of the petitioner seeking leave of the court to file additional pleas (replica) was cancelled.

The facts of the case are that a suit was filed by the petitioner for Permanent and Mandatory Injunction restraining the respondent from raising any construction illegally and unauthorizedly to the prejudice of the rights of the petitioner which was pending adjudication before the Subordinate Civil Judge. Respondent then filed his written statement in which he clearly refuted the contents of the plaint. The petitioner with a view to file additional pleading moved an application before the trial court for submitting additional pleadings (replica). The trial court did not find any substance in the application and rejected the same. The ground that was given for rejection was that the petitioner failed to demonstrate any new facts which had come in the written statement and which needed to be refuted or explained.

The Court held that no case was made out for the exercise of the power of superintendence of the Court vested by virtue of Section 104 of the J&K Constitution. The order fell in the realm of discretionary order and unless the discretion was demonstrated to have been exercised with material irregularity, and in ignorance of the settled legal principles it could not be made the subject matter of interference in supervisory jurisdiction. The Petition was thus dismissed. [Abdul Rashid Chalak v. State of J&K, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 1039, decided on 24-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Dr A.K. Rath, J., allowed the petition which challenged the order of the trial court whereunder the application of the plaintiffs filed under Order 1 Rule 10 CPC to implead the wife of Defendant 1 was rejected.

The facts of the case were that the plaintiffs-petitioners had instituted the suit for permanent injunction and recovery of possession impleading the wife of the defendant as Defendant 2.

The contention of Mr A.P. Bose, Advocate for the petitioners, was that a part of the suit land had been alienated to the wife of the defendant. The said fact came to the knowledge of the plaintiffs after the written statement was filed. The hearing of the suit had not begun. The intervenor was a necessary party to the suit.

The counsel for defendants Mr S. Udgata, submitted that the written statement was filed in the year 2011. But then, the petition for impleadment was filed after a gap of five years. The intervenor was neither necessary nor proper party to the suit.

The Court relied on the case of Razia Begum v. Sahebzadi Anwar Begum, AIR 1958 SC 886, wherein the Apex Court had held that it is firmly established as a result of judicial decisions that in order that a person may be added as a party to a suit, he should have a direct interest in the subject matter of the litigation whether it raises questions relating to movable or immovable property. The suit scheduled land had been alienated to the wife of the defendant. In view of the same, the intervenor was a necessary party to the suit thus the petition was allowed. [Ramesh Chandra Sahoo v. Ranjit Kumar Singh, 2018 SCC OnLine Ori 436, decided on 19-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Pratibha M. Singh, J. decreed a suit in terms of granting a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from selling plaintiff’s counterfeit products.

The plaintiff—Giorgio Armani SpA—is an Italian company that owns various ARMANI marks that makes it one of the leading fashion brands worldwide. The defendants were in the business of organising exhibitions of various high-end designer products including those of the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that its products were being sold without authenticity cards or nay price tag and hence the defendant’s activities were likely to cause huge damage to plaintiff’s marks and business. It was also pleaded that since the products did not bear price tags, which could not have been the case if the products were original, they could be easily inferred as being counterfeit.

The High Court perused the record and held that the fact that the defendants were offering for sale products under the various ARMANI marks and holding exhibitions in respect thereof showed that they were well aware of the value of the said marks. Legal position was noted to be that under Sections 29 and 30 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, causing infringement to a product would also constitute infringement. It was noted that the defendants neither argued nor pleaded that the products were genuine. The fact of missing price tags added credence to the plaintiff’s claim that the products were counterfeit. The activities of the defendant were held to be an infringement of plaintiff’s marks. Therefore, the suit was decreed in terms of granting permanent injunction against the defendants. [Giorgio Armani v. Yogesh Mordani,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12078, dated 03-10-2018]