The Madras High Court dismissed a suit filed by ITC Limited (ITC) against Nestle India Limited (Nestle) over the use of the term ‘Magical Masala’ thereby ending a seven-year-old legal battle between the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) manufacturers. The High Court has ruled that the terms such as ‘magic’ cannot be monopolised.
The fight dates back to 2013 when ITC Limited – that owns Sunfeast Yippee Noodles filed a case against Nestle India Limited for allegedly using the term “Magic Masala” in its Maggi brand of noodles.
Justice C Saravanan of the Madras High Court held that the word “Magic” and its derivative “Magical” are commonly used in the food industry and therefore cannot be monopolised by either parties. The Court held, “The fact that no trademark application was filed by the plaintiff to register the aforesaid expression “Magic Masala” as word mark also shows that the said expression was not intended to be used as trademark or a sub-brand by the plaintiff.”
According to the Court, the word “Magic” is laudatory and is incapable of being appropriated by ITC. Moreover, laudatory epithet cannot be given monopoly or protection as has been held by Courts. Further, the Court noted that even though there is a phonetic similarity between the word “Magic” used by the plaintiff (ITC) and the word “Magical” used by the defendant (Nestle), nevertheless they are incapable of being monopolised as they are not only laudatory but also common to the trade.
The Court also noted that the adoption of the expression “Magic Masala” by Lays was much prior to the plaintiff’s foray into instant noodle market and adoption of the same expression for its Sunfeast Yippee! noodles in 2010.
The Madras High Court observed, “The competing brands viz. “Sunfeast Yippee!” of the plaintiff and “Maggi” of the defendant are completely different from each other. Under law, there is also no scope to dissect the plaintiff’s aforesaid label to conclude that the defendant has copied the plaintiff’s sub-brand “Magic Masala” as it was never conceived as brand or trademark by the plaintiff. Therefore, it cannot be said that there is a misrepresentation by the defendant.”
The Court concluded that the overall colour scheme, layout, style and overall the get-up of the two wrappers i.e. of the plaintiff’s “Sunfeast Yippee! noodles” bearing the expression “Magic Masala” for its instant noodle and the defendant’s “Maggi Xtra-delicious Magical Masala” are different and leaving no scope for confusion.