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Activities of defendant in a different Area is not a ground for defending in Trademark Dispute

Trademark disputes often revolve around the potential for consumer confusion between similar marks, particularly when the products or services involved are closely related. This article examines a recent appeal case where the defendant's activities in a different geographical area were argued as a defense in a trademark dispute. The appeal was filed against the order passed by the Additional District Judge-II, Manjeri, in I.A.No.2/2022, under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in O.S.No.5/2021.

Background of the Case:
The dispute centers around the trademarks 'CILNICURE' and 'CILNICUE', both associated with medicinal products used for treating blood pressure. The plaintiff, who had obtained trademark registration for 'CILNICURE' on August 8, 2017, filed for a temporary injunction against the defendant to prevent the sale and manufacture of a similar product under the name 'CILNICUE'. The defendant, who registered the trademark 'CILNICUE' on September 7, 2021, contested this injunction.

Phonetic and Visual Similarity:
The primary issue at hand is the high degree of resemblance between the trademarks 'CILNICURE' and 'CILNICUE'. Both marks share a significant phonetic similarity, raising a substantial risk of consumer confusion. Given that both products are used for treating blood pressure, any mistake in medication could have serious health implications. The court noted that the only difference between the trademarks is the absence of the letter 'R' in 'CILNICUE', which does not suffice to eliminate the risk of confusion.

Geographical Argument by the Defendant:
The defendant argued that their product, 'CILNICUE', was marketed exclusively in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Thrissur, while the plaintiff's product, 'CILNICURE', was primarily sold in the Malabar area. The defendant claimed that this geographical separation should negate the possibility of confusion and thereby serve as a valid defense against the injunction.

Court's Analysis and Decision:
The court rejected the defendant's argument, emphasizing that geographical limitations in the marketing of a product are not a valid defense in trademark disputes. The court underscored several key points in its analysis:

Potential for Market Expansion:
The court recognized that the defendant's business could expand beyond its current geographical confines. It is unreasonable to assume that the defendant will restrict their trade to specific districts indefinitely.

Consumer Confusion:
The risk of consumer confusion remains irrespective of current market boundaries. Pharmacists and consumers might still misread or misunderstand prescriptions, given the high phonetic similarity between 'CILNICURE' and 'CILNICUE'. This is particularly critical in the pharmaceutical industry, where such confusion could lead to significant health risks.

Market Overlap:
The court noted that trademark protection is not confined to specific geographical areas unless explicitly stated. Therefore, the plaintiff's business does not need to be restricted to the Malabar area to avoid the risk of passing off due to the defendant's use of a deceptively similar trademark.

The court's decision to uphold the temporary injunction against the defendant underscores the principle that geographical separation does not mitigate the potential for consumer confusion in trademark disputes. The ruling reaffirms the importance of protecting trademarks to prevent public deception and ensure consumer safety, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. The decision also highlights that businesses cannot rely on current market boundaries as a defense in trademark disputes, as markets are dynamic and constantly evolving.

Case Title: Arun Krishnan M. Vs. Cure and Care Therapeutics
Judgment/Order Date: 29.05.2024
Case No. FAO 117 of 2022
Neutral Citation: 2024:KER:35199
Name of Court: Kerala High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: G.Girish, 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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