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Quashing of Summoning order in a Criminal Complaint pertaining to Trademark Dispute

The present petitions under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, seek the setting aside of an order dated April 2, 2012, passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Courts in CC No. 7/2/09. This order summoned the petitioners to face trial in a complaint case initiated by Anchor Health and Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd. The petitioners also seek the quashing of the impugned complaint, alleging that the documents produced by Colgate, particularly regarding their trademark registration, were forged.

Background of the Case:
Anchor Health and Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd. (Anchor) alleged that Colgate, through its Directors, produced a copy of the certificate of registration for Trademark Number 1223059, along with a purported certified copy for use in legal proceedings. Anchor contended that both documents were forged and were never issued by the Trade Marks Registry. The crux of Anchor's complaint revolves around the registration and color combination of Colgate's trademark for "toothpaste, toothpowder, non-medicated mouthwash, and dentifrices," identified as "Colgate Strong Teeth."

Forgery Allegations:
Anchor claimed that Colgate's registration certificate falsely depicted a red and white color combination, which was not granted by the Registrar of Trade Marks. Instead, the original subject matter of Trademark No. 1223059 was a black and white label. Anchor's contention is that the certificate produced by Colgate deviated from the original registration and subsequent advertisements in the Trade Mark Journal.

Document Authenticity:
The Court noted that Anchor did not dispute the issuance of the certified copy for legal proceedings dated February 28, 2006. Additionally, a similar certificate was issued on December 5, 2011, and returned by Colgate shortly thereafter. The issuance under the signature of Jai Prakash, Examiner of Trade Marks, suggested the possibility of clerical errors rather than deliberate forgery.

Procedural Lapses:
The learned Metropolitan Magistrate was criticized for not conducting an inquiry from the Trade Marks Registry to verify the alleged forgery. It was incumbent upon the Magistrate to ascertain the authenticity of the documents from the Registry's records, especially given the serious nature of forgery allegations.

Burden of Proof:

The burden to prove forgery lies with Anchor. Forgery cannot be presumed merely based on discrepancies; it must be established through conclusive evidence. Anchor's claim hinged on the non-conformity of the registration certificate with the Trade Marks Journal's advertisement, which required verification from the Trade Marks Registry.

Adverse Inference:
Anchor argued that Colgate's failure to surrender the original registration certificate, despite an undertaking to the Court, should lead to an adverse inference against Colgate. However, the Court emphasized that forgery must be established by law, and adverse inference alone cannot substantiate the claim.

Critical Analysis:
The present case highlights the importance of procedural diligence in handling allegations of forgery, especially concerning intellectual property rights. The Metropolitan Magistrate's omission to verify the documents from the Trade Marks Registry represents a critical procedural lapse that could undermine the integrity of judicial proceedings. The case underscores the need for meticulous judicial inquiry to prevent miscarriages of justice in intellectual property disputes.

Additionally, the burden of proof is a cornerstone of criminal jurisprudence. Anchor's reliance on adverse inference without substantive evidence could set a precarious precedent if accepted. It is crucial for courts to demand rigorous evidence before attributing criminal liability, ensuring that accusations of forgery are substantiated beyond reasonable doubt.

The petitions under Section 482 CrPC seeking the quashing of the impugned summoning order in a Criminal Complaint and setting aside the summoning order underscore the complexities in trademark disputes and the imperative of procedural accuracy. The Court's observations point to the necessity of thorough verification from relevant authorities before proceeding with criminal charges.

Case Title: Colgate Palmolive Company Vs State of NCT of Delhi
Judgement/Order Date: 28.05.2024
Case No. CRL.M.C. 1991/2012
Neutral Citation:2024:DHC:4382
Name of Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Amit Sharma. H.J.

Ideas, thoughts, views, information, discussions and interpretation expressed herein are being shared in the public Interest. Readers' discretion is advised as these are 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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