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Trademark Infringement and Fraudulent Scheme in relation to Trademark INDIA GATE

Background and Trademark Ownership:
The Plaintiff in this case is a globally recognized manufacturer and seller of rice and allied products, including quinoa, chia seeds, and flax seeds, marketed under the trademark "INDIA GATE." The wordmark "INDIA GATE," registered under No. 599833 in class 30, was initially utilized in 1979 by Mr. Ram Pratap. On August 6, 2019, the mark was officially assigned to the Plaintiff through a Deed of Assignment.

The Plaintiff has duly updated the proprietorship details with the Trademarks Registry, ensuring compliance with the legal formalities necessary for such a transfer. Furthermore, the Trademarks Registry has acknowledged "INDIA GATE" as a well-known mark in accordance with the Trademarks Act, 1999, and the Trademarks Rules, 2017, reflecting its widespread recognition and established goodwill.

The Alleged Fraudulent Scheme:
In January 2024, the Plaintiff began receiving multiple consumer complaints regarding a fraudulent investment scheme orchestrated by Defendant No. 1. This scheme involved the misuse of the Plaintiff's trademark "INDIA GATE" to deceive consumers into participating in a fake investment opportunity. Specifically, Defendant No. 1 distributed a link ( via WhatsApp, luring individuals to register by depositing a small amount of money with the promise of beneficial returns. The WhoIs portal revealed that this link was created on January 4, 2024, and is set to expire on January 4, 2025. However, the registrant's details were masked, preventing public identification.

Trademark Infringement:
Under the Trademarks Act, 1999, the unauthorized use of a trademark in a manner that is likely to cause confusion or deception among consumers constitutes trademark infringement. The Plaintiff's trademark "INDIA GATE," being a well-known mark, enjoys heightened protection under Section 29 of the Trademarks Act. The use of the "INDIA GATE" mark by Defendant No. 1 in the fraudulent scheme clearly falls within the ambit of infringement, as it creates a false association with the Plaintiff's brand and misleads consumers regarding the source and legitimacy of the investment scheme.

Passing Off:
The tort of passing off protects the goodwill and reputation of a business from being misappropriated by another. The classic trinity test for passing off involves proving (i) goodwill or reputation in the mark, (ii) misrepresentation by the defendant leading to consumer confusion, and (iii) damage to the plaintiff's goodwill. In this case, the Plaintiff has established a strong reputation and goodwill associated with the "INDIA GATE" mark. The fraudulent use of this mark by Defendant No. 1 constitutes a clear misrepresentation, leading to consumer confusion and potential damage to the Plaintiff's reputation.

Consumer Protection:
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, also comes into play, as the fraudulent scheme adversely affects consumers who are misled into investing their money based on false pretenses. The use of a well-known trademark to perpetrate such fraud exacerbates the severity of the offense, warranting stringent legal action to protect consumer interests and prevent further harm.

Prima Facie Case and Irreparable Harm:
The Court has rightly identified that the Plaintiff has established a prima facie case. The Plaintiff's trademark is not only registered but also recognized as well-known, providing a strong basis for protection. The fraudulent use of the trademark by Defendant No. 1 poses a significant threat of irreparable harm to the Plaintiff's brand reputation and consumer trust. The balance of convenience favors the Plaintiff, as allowing the fraudulent scheme to continue would result in ongoing damage, while an injunction would prevent further harm without unduly affecting the Defendant.

In light of the above analysis, it is evident that the Plaintiff has a strong case for trademark infringement and passing off against Defendant No. 1. The fraudulent scheme using the "INDIA GATE" mark not only infringes on the Plaintiff's trademark rights but also deceives consumers, causing potential financial harm. The Court's decision to issue an ad-interim ex-parte injunction against Defendant No. 1 is justified, ensuring immediate cessation of the infringing activities and preventing further damage to the Plaintiff's brand and consumer interests.

Case Title: KRBL Vs John Doe and another
Order Date: 20.05.2024
Case No. CS(COMM) 416/2024
Neutral Citation:NA
Name of Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Sanjeev Narula. H.J.

Ideas, thoughts, views, information, discussions and interpretation expressed herein are being shared in the public Interest. Readers' discretion is advised as these are subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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