In this blog post, Gopalakrishnan Arjun, a student of the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi, who is currently pursuing a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata, discusses the case of Reliance Industries Ltd. V. Concord Enviro Systems Pvt. Ltd.
Reliance Industries had registered trademarks consisting of a distinctive logo. Reliance claimed injunctive reliefs for infringement of its registered trademarks, infringement of copyright and passing off, on the ground that the logo of Concord Enviro Pvt. Ltd. was deceptively similar to the registered trademark of Reliance.
Contentions raised by Reliance Industries (Plaintiff):
The plaintiff argued that Concord was using a mark which was deceptively similar to Reliance’s registered trademark, in respect of goods falling in classes 7, 9, and 11 and services falling in class 40. The logo of Concord was said to be both visually and structurally similar. The logo of Reliance, when rotated to the right, appears to be an inverted or reversed or mirror image of the Concord’s logo. Also, since the trademark of Reliance is a well- known mark, Reliance is entitled to the reliefs of infringement not only in respect of goods falling in classes in which their logo is registered but also in respect of goods falling in other classes in respect of which Concord is using and is intending to use their mark. The logo of Reliance has been registered from 1999 and has been extensively used. Hence, it can be inferred that Concord was trying to deceive and confuse. Concord did not deny that they were unaware of Reliance’s mark. Hence, Concord is not honest in the adoption of the mark. The Plaintiff contended that adding a drop of water as a background to the essential feature, makes no difference to the logo. Since the user only has a general impression of Reliance’s mark, he is bound to get confused. It was argued that the use of the Concord logo was without due cause and by this kind of use, they were taking undue advantage of Reliance’s mark. Reliance was hence entitled to the relief on the grounds of infringement under sections 28 and 29(4) of the Act and passing off. The logo of Reliance is an original artistic work. The logo is registered as an artistic work under the Copyright Act. Concord’s Mark is a colourable imitation of Reliance’s artistic work. Reliance is hence also entitled to interim reliefs on the basis of copyright infringement.
Contentions of Concord Enviro Systems Pvt. Ltd. (Defendant):
The Defendants argued that the claim that the two marks were deceptively similar was misconceived. The dissimilarity was argued to be apparent to the naked eye itself. Concord’s logo depicts the idea of Concord’s initials being ‘c’ and ‘e’ artistically depicted inside the said drop. The ‘c’ of Concord is embracing the ‘e’ of Enviro which means the Company is contributing to creating a better and cleaner environment. On the other hand, Reliance calls its logo as the ‘R’ logo, thus making the two completely different. They further contended that even the drop has to be considered because a logo is always compared as a whole. The ‘curves’ appearing in the two marks are also completely different. That Reliance mark’s curve tapers towards the left and becomes extremely wide to the right, giving it a unique shape. The curvature to the right is wide and angled such that the ‘flame’ in the middle leads to a formation of an ‘R,’ and the ‘curve’ is very ’rounded’ and ‘circular’ and virtually completes ‘circular shape.’ The ‘right rotate’ comparison proposed by the Plaintiff was argued to be unacceptable. The attempt of the Plaintiff to have a monopoly over curves of every shape was unacceptable. Also, the consumers of Concord would buy their products with deliberation. Hence, these products are not sold across the counter. So there is no chance of confusion. It was argued that no case had been made under Section 29(4) of the Act.
Judgment by the Court:
The Court was of the opinion that there is absolutely no similarity between the Plaintiff’s logo (curve) and the curve used by the Defendant. The ‘curve’ used by Concord is the initials of the ‘Concord Enviro’ i.e. ‘c’ and ‘e,’ which are artistically depicted inside the water droplet, which is an essential feature of their logo. Reliance calls its logo the R logo. ‘R’ in the logo, is formed in inverse space that is white color or no color. Hence, the Court was of the opinion that there is no question of confusion in the minds of the general public and the Defendant has used the logo in good faith.
The Court held that the rival marks are completely different. There was no question whatsoever about damage to Reliance’s reputation. The allegations made by Reliance that Concord is guilty of trademark infringement, passing off and copyright infringement was held to be not established. The plaintiff has hence failed to make out a prima facie case. The Court dismissed the notice of motion.