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Fabrication of Invoices at Interim Stage in Trademark Dispute

The recent interim ruling in a trademark dispute case sheds light on the complexities and critical considerations in adjudicating trademark rights, particularly in scenarios involving alleged fabrication of evidence. This case revolves around the contested trademark "HUALI," used in relation to furniture components.

Plaintiff's Trademark History:
The Plaintiff first adopted the trademark HUALI in 2004 internationally and subsequently in 2007 within India. The Plaintiff has used this mark consistently and extensively in relation to furniture components. To secure their rights in India, the Plaintiff filed for registration under the Trade Marks Act, 1999, through application No. 2777522 dated July 21, 2014. This application is currently pending consideration and has been opposed by Defendant No. 1. Additionally, the Plaintiff has secured registration for their device mark "HUAFULI" under No. 2842353 in Class 20.

Defendant's Trademark Maneuvering:
The Defendants adoption and use of the identical trademark HUALI for identical goods has aggrieved the Plaintiff. Defendant No. 1 initially applied for registration of the mark HUALI through application No. 3925098 dated August 24, 2018, on a Proposed to be Used basis. However, shortly before opposing the Plaintiff's trademark application, Defendant No. 1 strategically amended their application to claim usage dating back to August 24, 2008.

Defendant No. 1 withdrew their initial application and re-applied for registration of the mark HUALI through application No. 4146654, maintaining the claimed usage date of August 24, 2008. This subsequent application, which has since been granted, was filed on the same date that Defendant No. 1 opposed the Plaintiff's trademark application. Notably, this second application was not mentioned in the notice of opposition, hindering the Plaintiff's ability to contest it.

Questionable Documentation:
The trademark HUALI is currently registered under Defendant No. 1's name. The Plaintiff has initiated a passing off action, asserting their prior use and directly challenging the validity of this registration on multiple grounds.

Several bills of lading presented by the Defendants have raised suspicions:
Bills of Lading Predating Entity Existence:

The bills dated June 25, 2009, December 19, 2010, and July 26, 2011, list Defendant No. 1's company (All Star Co.) as the shipper and Defendant No. 3 (Kalkaji Glasses Pvt. Ltd.) as the consignee. However, All Star Co. was incorporated in China on May 23, 2014, and Defendant No. 3 was incorporated on January 29, 2010, receiving their Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) only on December 27, 2012. These dates establish that the bills of lading predate the official existence of both entities, rendering them prima facie not genuine.

GST Anomalies:
Further bills dated August 26, 2012, October 18, 2013, and August 17, 2014, mention All Star Co. as the shipper and Defendant No. 4 (Kalkaji Enterprises) as the consignee. These documents list the GST number of Defendant No. 4, GSTIN 19AAIFK4362M2ZT, despite the GST regime being introduced in India only in 2016, making these entries anachronistic.

Court's Prima Facie Opinion:
The temporal anomalies in the Defendants documentation suggest potential manipulation and fabrication, seriously undermining the credibility of their assertions. Defendant No. 1 explicitly acknowledged that exports to Defendant No. 2 only commenced in 2015, contradicting Defendant No. 2's claims of using the HUALI brand since 2008.

Given these inconsistencies and the dubious nature of the evidence presented, the court, in its prima facie opinion, found the documents produced by the Defendants to be forged and fabricated. Consequently, the court determined that the Defendants adoption of the identical HUALI trademark was a dishonest attempt to deceive consumers into believing their products were associated with or originated from the Plaintiff.

Interim Injunction Granted:
In light of these findings, the court concluded that the Plaintiff had made out a prima facie case for the grant of an interim injunction. This ruling prevents the Defendants from using the HUALI trademark, thereby safeguarding the Plaintiff's trademark rights until the final resolution of the case.

Author's Ending Note:
This case underscores the critical importance of genuine and credible documentation in trademark disputes. The court's meticulous scrutiny of the Defendants' evidence, particularly the bills of lading, highlights the judiciary's role in preventing the manipulation of records to establish trademark rights fraudulently. The decision to grant an interim injunction reflects a commitment to maintaining fair competition and protecting the legitimate rights of trademark holders.

Case Citation: Donguan Huali Industries Co. Ltd. Vs Anand Aggarwal: 01.07.2024: CS COM 229 of 2023 : 2024:DHC:4878:Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Narula, H.J.

The information shared here is intended to serve the public interest by offering insights and perspectives. However, readers are advised to exercise their own discretion when interpreting and applying this information. The content herein is subjective and may contain errors in perception, interpretation, and presentation.

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

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