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Educated Customer and Trademark Confusion

The case at hand involves an appeal filed by the plaintiffs/appellants under Order 43 Rule 1(r) of the Code of Civil Procedure, read with Section 13 of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.

The appeal challenges the order of the Commercial Court, Indore, dated 26.11.2020, which rejected the appellants' application for a temporary injunction under Order 39 Rule 1 and 2 of the CPC.

The core issue in this case revolves around trademark confusion and the question of whether an "educated customer" is less likely to be confused by similar trademarks in the premium and ultra-premium whisky market.

The appellants are engaged in the business of manufacturing and distributing wines, liquors, and spirits. They market and sell whisky under the trademarks 'Blenders Pride' and 'Imperial Blue'. Additionally, they have been using the 'Imperial Blue' mark since 1997, with distinctive packaging and trade dress.

The dispute arises from the alleged imitation of the appellants' trademarks by the respondents, who have been manufacturing and selling whisky under the trademark 'London Pride.' This situation led to a trademark clash between 'Blenders Pride' and 'London Pride'.

Key Arguments and the Court's Decision:
The appellants argued that the respondents' product, 'London Pride,' created confusion with their trademarks, 'Blenders Pride' and 'Imperial Blue.' However, the Hon'ble High Court rejected the appeal, citing several reasons to support its decision.
  1. Distinct Packaging and Trade Dress:
    The Court noted that the bottles of 'Blenders Pride' and 'London Pride' were significantly different. 'Blenders Pride' is round in shape, while 'London Pride' is cylindrical. The labels on the bottles had entirely different patterns.
  2. No Confusion for an Average Consumer:
    The Court emphasized that the real test for trademark comparison was an "average consumer with imperfect recollection." Even such a consumer, according to the Court, would not be confused by the two products. A quick glance would reveal their dissimilarity.
  3. Different Packaging:
    The boxes in which the bottles were sold also exhibited differences. The box of 'Blenders Pride' was broader than that of 'London Pride.' The writings on the boxes were dissimilar, as were other features such as holograms and the manner in which words were written on the boxes.
  4. Educated Customer:
    The Court considered the nature of the products, both being 'premium' or 'ultra-premium' whisky. It presumed that consumers of such products would be educated and possess reasonable intelligence to differentiate between 'Blenders Pride/Imperial Blue' and 'London Pride'.

The decision of the Hon'ble High Court in this case underscores several important principles in trademark law. It emphasizes the significance of a holistic examination of trademarks, including bottle shape, label design, and packaging. Furthermore, the judgment highlights the "average consumer with imperfect recollection" as the standard for assessing trademark confusion, rather than a highly discerning or expert consumer.

The Court's consideration of the education and intelligence of the target market also plays a crucial role. In the context of premium and ultra-premium whisky, the presumption is that consumers are capable of distinguishing between similar trademarks, thus reducing the possibility of confusion.

The Concluding Note:
The case of 'Blenders Pride' versus 'London Pride' exemplifies the meticulous analysis that courts undertake when assessing trademark confusion. It reinforces the principle that even in competitive markets, trademark disputes are resolved based on the perception of the average consumer. In this instance, the educated and discerning nature of the consumers in the premium whisky market played a significant role in the court's decision to reject the appeal.

The Case Law Discussed:
Case Title: Pernod Ricard India Pvt. Ltd. Vs Karanveer Singh Chhabra
Date of Judgement/Order:03/11/2023
Case No. MISC. APPEAL No. 232 of 2021
Neutral Citation No: N A
Name of Hon'ble Court:High Court of Madras
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Pranay Verma, H.J.

Information and discussion contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same should not be treated as substitute for expert advice as it is subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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