New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has permanently restrained, and imposed a cost of Rs 20 lakh, on Gwalior Distilleries Private Ltd, makers of Royal Champ whiskey, which is deceptively similar to Seagram’s ‘Royal Stag’ whiskey brand over trademark infringement.
Justice Navin Chawla, in a recent order, held that the Gwalior Distilleries was clearly intending to deceive the unwary consumer and to ride on the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiffs.
“… it is seen that mere use of the word ‘Champ’ instead of ‘Stag’ is not sufficient to distinguish the two marks, especially when combined with the overall get up of the label. The goods are sold over the counter and an unwary consumer is likely to confuse one for the other,” the court said.
The court also noted that the label of the defendant is “a colourable and slavish” imitation of the plaintiffs’ Royal Stag label and also amounts to copyright infringement under Section 51 read with Section 55 of the Copyright Act.
The plaintiffs said their predecessor in the business was The Seagram Company Ltd’, incorporated under the laws of Canada, and was the ultimate holding company of the Seagram Group, through its various subsidiaries and group companies, having presence in many countries. Further, they said the company started selling the whiskey under the trade mark Royal Stag since 1995 and the volume of sales of the brand in India rose from Rs 4.04 crore in 1995 to Rs 848.68 crore in 2008. The marketing expenditure in the advertisement and promotion of the Royal Stag mark have increased substantially from Rs 1 crore to Rs 42.37 crore.
As per the suit, “the defendant has copied all the features that collectively distinguish the plaintiff’s trade dress of Royal Stag. The bottle of the defendant has a label affixed upon the front panel, having the same colour combination of cream, burgundy and gold – as that of the plaintiffs’ Royal Stag label. The front panel depicts two thick ribbon devices having a burgundy background and gold borders, upon which the trade mark Royal Champ is represented in cream colour in bold capital letters, in the same font and manner as the Royal Stag mark.”
After going through the detailed submissions and referring to various judgements, the court said: “In the present case, the goods of the plaintiffs and defendant are identical, that is whiskey. The mark of the defendant is deceptively similar to that of the plaintiffs. The test to be applied for judging the claim of infringement and passing off is of an unwary consumer with average intelligence and imperfect recollection.”
Accordingly, the court decreed the defendant to pay to the plaintiff a sum of Rs 20 lakh as damages and costs of the suit.