Citation: Tea Board vs ITC Limited C.S. No. 250 of 2010
Names of judges involved in the judgment: HON’BLE JUSTICE SAHIDULLAH MUNSHI
Petitioner respondent names:
Plaintiff is **Tea Board of India**
Defendant is **ITC Ltd.**
Tea Board of India filed a lawsuit against ITC Ltd. by using the word "Darjeeling" in one of its hotel resorts, Calcutta which leads to a breach of the plaintiff's landmark, as well as a certificate mark. Plaintiff is the registered owner of the "Darjeeling" sign. Marks are independently registered under the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration & Protection Act) 1999 and Trademarks Act, 1999. The ITC introduced the 'Darjeeling Lounge' in January 2003. Later in April 2005, the Tea Board approved the ITC trademark application. 'in Darjeeling lounge.' After exchanging notices, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in 2010 before the Court requesting the suspension of the accused defendant.
Facts of the case:
● India Tea Board owns the famous GI “Darjeeling” and the logo of the woman holding the tea leaves, as well as the trademark “Darjeeling” under the Trademarks Act, regarding “tea”.
● ITC, Limited has used the “Darjeeling Lounge” as the name of its top lounge at its Kolkata hotel, ITC Sonar.
● The Tea Board had previously filed a lawsuit against the ITC for using the name Darjeeling in their lounge. The case focused on issues of GI violations and TMs certificates, as well as transit and clearing.
● The case was rejected by one bench of judges, as a result of which an appeal was lodged before the Divisional bench of the Kolkata High Court.
Issue of the case:
- Whether the plaintiff has acquired any right to use the logo or name “Darjeeling” other than the authority to certify the tea that originates from Darjeeling?
- Whether the defendant used the name Darjeeling Lounge with the malafide intention to make his customers believe that they owe their origin to Darjeeling?
- Whether the plaintiff can protect the logo “Darjeeling” under the Copyright Act?
Contentions of petitioner:
● According to the plaintiff, the defendant violated the registered identification rights by calling one of the business premises 'DARJEELING LOUNGE.' Defendant has a malicious intent to use the name Darjeeling to sell products, misleading his customers and making them believe that the goods originated from a certain source. The cause of the advertising and promotion of products has created unfair competition within the market. Defendant with the help of using the derogatory term ‘DARJEELING’ threatened the exercise of groups of people busy with Darjeeling Tea.
● In order to prevent the Respondent from infringing the above rights in terms of the Trademark and Local Indications Act, the complainant has submitted an application for interim order to prevent the respondent from infringing the rights in any way.
Contentions of respondent:
● According to the Respondent, there was no reason to open a case as it was restricted. Since the plaintiff had only a trademark, no right or reason for action may arise from the plaintiff under the trademark of the defendant using the ‘DARJEELING LOUNGE’ in accordance with the Trademark Act. The case is also not dealt with under section 26 of the Environmental References Act.
● Plaintiff's rights are limited only by guaranteeing tea from a registered tea garden in Darjeeling. This does not apply to the origin of the Darjeeling area. Violation of trademark infringement is limited only to Section 75 and such breach is limited to goods, and services where the trademark trademark is registered and may not be extended to any other goods and services.
● The Court upheld the fact that the plaintiff has not obtained registration under Sections 18 and 23 of the Trademark Act, 1999. The registration is made under Chapter VIII of the Trademark Act, and Trademarks, 1958.
● The court heard the plaintiff's dispute and ruled that the plaintiff's action in respect of the violation of the Local References Act was prohibited under Section 26 (4) of the GI Act. The Court declares that the filing of the complaint was made in 2010 in excess of the 5-year period stipulated in Section 26 (4) of the Act.
● Definition of the “trademark certificate” under the 1999 Act and the 1958 Act and stipulated that in lieu of Section 159 (2) of the 1999 Act, the agreed protection of the certificate in question would extend to goods and not services.
● The court found that there has never been a violation of the law under the Geographical Indications of Goods Act because the ‘Lounge’ of the respondent is not related to the property. Used for their hotel services and therefore could not be considered a violation of the Location. Claimant rights granted to the registration of the word ‘Darjeeling’ are related to tea only. 'Darjeeling' is not a trademark. It is only used to indicate the location of the source of the tea from Darjeeling.
● The Court also noted that the parties were operating in different industries, and there was no competition between the two. Negative competition means any competitive act that is contrary to honesty in the business environment. Thus, the court ruled that the defendant could contest unfairly. It also emphasized the defendant's case that the living room is usually accessible to educated and experienced guests and thus, it was impossible for them to be confused or misled by its use. Therefore, it was decided by the Court that no fraud was committed on the part of the defendant.
● In the case of a plaintiff's copyright infringement, the Court ruled that there was no resemblance between the plague and the defendant's logo. Thus, the court considered the matter to be irrelevant.
● The court ruled that the case was baseless and dismissed it at a cost of Rs. One Lakh.
From the above, we can conclude that a registered GI entitles the holder of a GI tag to authorize any person or entity to use the GI registered trademark or its name on a product that may be fraudulent or identical with the registered product or may not be the same as the registered product. But if a person uses a registered name or GI symbol in the service that will not fall under the provisions of the Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999 because if we look at the definition of GI itself provided by TRIPS and section 2 (e) of the local GI action there we will find the use of the word "goods" in it and the word service is not mentioned anywhere and GI is about a product with special features due to nature. , climate and human intervention for a particular region. Therefore, with this right, the court rejected the plaintiff's application.
This article is written by Sushant Tare of St.Rocks College of Commerce, Science & Law.