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Trademark Use and Infringement: Licensee Use and Consumer Perception

In a recent case before the Hon'ble High Court Delhi, the issue of trademark infringement arose concerning the use of marks similar to the plaintiff's registered DEER Brand device. This article delves into the nuanced legal analysis undertaken by the court, particularly focusing on the significance of licensee use in determining trademark infringement.

The plaintiff, a Taiwanese company established in 1954, specializes in manufacturing adhesive tapes and labels under the registered trademark DEER Brand device.

The defendants, accused of infringing the plaintiff's trademark rights, utilized marks such as REINDEER BRAND and REINDEER WONDER for identical goods, namely insulating tapes. The dispute centered on the alleged confusion caused by the similarity between the plaintiff's DEER mark and the defendants' marks.

Trademark Use and Licensee Rights:
A pivotal contention raised by the defendants was the alleged disuse of the plaintiff's DEER marks since 2011. However, the court rejected this argument, emphasizing that use by the plaintiff or its licensee, Avatack, constitutes trademark use. The court recognized the validity of trademark use through licensees, reinforcing the principle that trademark rights extend to authorized users who maintain the quality standards associated with the mark.

Consumer Perception and Likelihood of Confusion:
The court dismissed the defendants' assertion that the DEER and REINDEER marks signify different animals, emphasizing that trademark infringement is assessed from the perspective of consumers, not zoologists.

The critical factor in determining infringement lies in the likelihood of confusion among consumers of average intelligence and imperfect recollection. Given the similarity between the marks and the identity of goods, consumers are likely to be confused regarding the origin of the products, thereby establishing prima facie infringement under Section 29(2).

Identical Goods and Similarity of Marks:
The court observed that the defendants' use of marks for identical goods catered to the same consumer segment and distribution channels as the plaintiff's products.

The similarity between the marks, coupled with the identical nature of the goods, heightened the potential for confusion among consumers. Consequently, the court concluded that the conjoint effect of similarity in marks and identity of goods prima facie established trademark infringement.

Case Title: Four Pillars Enterprises Co. Vs Mahipal Jain and Ors
Order Date: 07.03.2024
Case No. CS Comm 472 of 2023
Neutral Citation:2024:DHC:2478
Name of Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: C Hari Shankar H.J.

This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be construed as substitute for legal advice as Ideas, thoughts, views, information, discussions and interpretation perceived and expressed herein are are subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue of law involved herein.

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

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