Interim relief granted to NATURAL Ice Cream in Rs 150 crore trademark infringement suit by Bombay High Court
The defendants had no independent right to use the NATURAL mark and the brand mark-owning plaintiff company were registered proprietors of the mark since 1984, the court observed.
On Monday, the Bombay High Court granted Natural ice cream interim relief in a Rs 150 crore trademark infringement suit (Siddhant Ice creams LLP & Ors v. Natural Ice Cream & Anr.).
The defendant, a Vadodara-based entity, was restrained by the Court from using the mark NATURAL as part of its business name or trading style.
Siddhant Icecreams LLP and Kamaths Ourtimes Icecreams Pvt Ltd – the plaintiffs – promoted and founded by third plaintiff Raghunandan Srinivas Kamath, through branded ice cream parlours manufacture, sell and distribute ice cream under what they call the NATURAL family of marks. The mark NATURAL was adopted in 1984, Kamath submitted and ever since, they registered the mark and its variants under the Trademark Act.
Appearing for the plaintiffs, Senior Advocate Viraag Tulzapurkar, submitted that the mark is popular and has a large reputation uniquely with the plaintiffs.
The entities have more than 130 franchises with a Rs 166 crores annual turnover and Rs 312.7 cumulative turnover for 2019-20 and that the plaintiffs had spent more than Rs. 1.46 crores towards promotional expenses.
The plaintiffs in March 2021 chanced upon an ice cream parlour in Vadodara using the mark NATURAL. The plaintiff upon preliminary probing found that a business entity 'Natural Ice Cream' owned that outlet and the proprietor was one Sanman Patel.
The defendants were advertising their ice cream on social media using the rival mark and parlour signage had a legend "since 1992" on social media. The defendant had no independent right to use the NATURAL mark, Justice Gautam Patel deduced.
The signage said "since 1992" but the Court concluded that the registered proprietors were the plaintiffs and were using the mark back since 1984.
The Court, satisfied that prima facie case made out by the plaintiffs in the case, granted an ad-interim injunction against the defendants from using NATURAL as part of the defendants' business name or trading style or infringing any of the NATURAL family registered marks. In the case before him, Justice Patel was also dealing with an "extremely unusual event". The defendants' lawyers filed a lengthy affidavit in the case signed by Ambrish Chauhan who claimed to be the lawful attorney of the sole proprietor of Natural Ice Cream & Cold Drinks. The outlet in the suit was a franchisee of his proprietorship, Chauhan stated in his affidavit but the Court noted that the agreement he depended on seemed to be a contract for sale of products by his proprietorship to Patel's outlet.
Justice Patel found no relation between the two firms and that Chauhan and his proprietorship were not made defendants to the suit, Justice Patel noticed. Justice Patel noted, "I do not see how the Chauhans or Natural Ice Cream & Cold Drinks have any standing at all before this Court. I do not see how they could have done anything except seek impleadment. "Tulzapurkar also did not press for any reliefs against the Chauhans and their proprietorship. The injunction was sought against the defendant firm and Patel, he clarified.
Accordingly, ad-interim relief was granted by Justice Patel which will operate till September 9, 2021 unless vacated earlier by the Court.
Tulzapurkar appeared along with Advocate Hiren Kamod instructed by ABH Law LLP for the Plaintiffs.
Senior Advocate Birendra Saraf with Advocates Mayur Khandeparkar, Kunal Kanungo, Himanshu Deora, Rahul Panjabi and S Venkateshwar appeared for Chauhans and their proprietorship.
Advocate Shashwat Bakshe, instructed by KC Patel appeared for Defendants.