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Even The Slightest Probability Of Confusion In Medicinal Products Is Unacceptable

This legal analysis examines a trademark dispute involving the plaintiff's mark 'ALRISTA' and the defendant's mark 'ALSITA'. Both marks pertain to pharmaceutical formulations used in diabetes-related treatments. The plaintiff's mark, 'ALRISTA', is associated with the drug 'EPALRESTAT', used for diabetic neuropathy, while the defendant's mark, 'ALSITA', is associated with 'SITAGLIPTIN', used for treating Type 2 diabetes.

The primary legal issue revolves around the likelihood of confusion between the two marks and the potential public health implications. This analysis explores the facts, findings, legal implications, ratio decidendi, and concludes with a summary of the case's significance.

The plaintiff has been using the mark 'ALRISTA' since 2007 and applied for registration under application No.1585338, in Class 5, on July 30, 2007. This application is currently under opposition. The defendant adopted the mark 'ALSITA' in 2021, applied for registration via application No.4969725 on May 10, 2021, and obtained registration on October 31, 2021. The plaintiff claims that the defendant's use of 'ALSITA' for a formulation containing 'SITAGLIPTIN' is likely to cause confusion with their mark 'ALRISTA' used for a formulation containing 'EPALRESTAT'.

Upon analyzing the phonetic and structural similarities between 'ALRISTA' and 'ALSITA', it is evident that the two marks are remarkably similar. Both marks consist of similar letters arranged in a similar sequence, leading to a high probability of confusion among consumers and healthcare professionals. Considering that both drugs are prescribed to diabetic patients, albeit for different indications, the potential for disastrous consequences if the wrong medication is dispensed is significant. This risk is heightened in the pharmaceutical context, where even minor errors can have severe health implications.

Legal Implications:
The primary legal principle at stake is the doctrine of passing off, which protects the goodwill of a trader from misrepresentation leading to consumer confusion. Since the plaintiff's mark is not yet registered, the action is based on passing off rather than trademark infringement. The court must determine whether the defendant's use of 'ALSITA' constitutes a misrepresentation that could lead to consumer confusion, damaging the plaintiff's goodwill and causing potential harm to patients.

Ratio Decidendi:
The key legal precedent applicable here is the necessity to avoid confusion in the pharmaceutical sector due to the potential for serious health risks. The court in *Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd.* emphasized that even a remote possibility of confusion in medicinal products warrants restraint. This principle is particularly relevant in this case, where the marks 'ALRISTA' and 'ALSITA' are used for drugs targeting diabetic patients, albeit for different conditions. Given the phonetic and structural similarities, the likelihood of confusion is substantial.

Concluding Note:
In conclusion, the court's primary concern in this case is the potential for confusion between 'ALRISTA' and 'ALSITA' and the consequent risk to patient safety. The similarities between the marks, coupled with their use in diabetes-related treatments, underscore the need for careful scrutiny to prevent misprescription or dispensing errors. The legal framework and judicial precedents support the plaintiff's contention that even the slightest probability of confusion in medicinal products is unacceptable. Therefore, it is imperative to restrain the use of the defendant's mark 'ALSITA' to safeguard public health and uphold the principles of fair competition and consumer protection.

Case Title: Macleods Pharmaceuticals Limited Vs Alkem Laboratories Ltd. and another
Order Date: 28.05.2024
Case No. CS Comm 86 of 2024
Neutral Citation:2024:DHC:4432
Name of Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Anish Dayal. 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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