As per a report in the Times of India, way back in 1998, it had come to the notice of Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited, popularly known as Amul Dairy, and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (GCMMF- the apex marketing body of all district dairy unions of Gujarat that markets Amul), that Shri Shakti Dairy based in Naroda was selling milk pouch similar in name and design to its trademark brands (Amul Taaza and Amul Shakti). The copied pouches were being sold by Kuldeep Enterprises under the names ‘Anul Taaza’ and ‘Anul Shakti’.
Amul had sent legal notices to both Shakti Dairy and Kuldeep Enterprises but they got responses stating that the names were phonetically different, so there was no chance of confusion. Eventually, Amul moved to the District Court in Nadiad against them. They continued to market the product with similar brand names over the years.
The case was transferred to Vadodara where a new Commercial Court had been set up.
Whether Defendant’s actions of selling and manufacturing their goods by the name of ‘Anul’ under the names ‘Anul Shakti’ and ‘Anul Taaza’ was an infringement of the trademarks of Amul?
- Deceptive similarity to Amul’s well known products.
- Anul’s product was marketed in village areas, where the public could be easily deceived and it was difficult to differentiate between the two products.
- Colour scheme and layout of Anul’s packages were similar to their pouches.
- Defendant’s actions via colour scheme, similarity, packing; highlighted the defendant’s malafide intentions of imitating the trademark and reputation and thereby trying to gain profits on the hard work and reputation built by the Plaintiff, Amul.
- There was no intention of copying and that they had coined the term ‘Anul’ themselves.
- Amul does not have any monopoly right on the label and trademark, as others were imitating the labels as well.
The case went on for around two decades before the Court finally passed a judgment restraining the Ahmedabad-based dairy and the marketing firm from ‘manufacturing, processing, marketing and packing milk under their labels, committing an infringement of Amul’s trademarks and reproducing or copying its labels’.
In the present case, trademark infringement contains the issues of:
- Deceptive Mark/Similarity
‘Anul’ had launched a similar product by using packaging which was deceptively similar to the packaging for ‘Amul’. It was held that Amul’s and Anul’s names rhyme and therefore, will likely cause confusion among customers.
- Phonetic Similarity
The dairy ‘Anul’ was selling its products under a similar brand name as that of Amul which could be easily confused.
Hence, there was a trademark infringement on part of the Defendants i.e. Anul. The Court took note of the fact that there was several documentary evidence of the registration of Amul and its milk brands that were produced. It was, thus, held to be clear that “Amul” is the registered trademark of Amul Dairy. Moreover, Defendant failed to furnish any evidence to prove that ‘Anul’ was coined and invented by it.
CONCLUSION A trademark identifies the brand owner of a particular product or service. This is why it becomes necessary to claim uniqueness, any infringement will cost the business for the owners. Thus, Defendant was restrained from selling their dairy products under ‘Anul’ and other deceptively confusing trade names.