“AZIWOK” Trademark Dispute: HC Issues Interim Injunction

In a major relief to the Plaintiff, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited, the Delhi High Court has issued an interim injunction against the Defendant, Smart Laboratories Pvt Ltd, restraining it from using the mark “AZIWAKE” in infringement of the registered trademark, “AZIWOK”.[1]

In this case, the trademark, “AZIWOK”, with respect to Azithromycin, an antibiotic, was registered by Wockhardt Limited in the year 1994. Subsequently, the mark was assigned in favour of the Plaintiff in June 2020. In August 2023, the Plaintiff became aware of the use of the “AZIWAKE” mark by the Defendant. Therefore, the Plaintiff filed a civil suit before the Delhi High Court seeking a permanent injunction against the Defendant.

The Court dismissed the Defendant’s submission that the suit was not maintainable in light of the requirement of pre-litigation mediation as mandated under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, holding that the Plaintiff’s contentions regarding deliberate adoption by the Defendant of a deceptively similar mark, the possibility of both the marks appearing similar on medical prescriptions when handwritten by practitioners, and irreparable loss and injury caused to the Plaintiff’s goodwill and reputation established the need for urgent interim relief.

The Court further opined that the impugned mark was “phonetically deceptively similar” to the Plaintiff’s trademark on account of the degree of similarity and the same initial and terminal consonant sounds.

When Defendant argued that the prefix “AZI” was common to trade for pharmaceutical preparations with azithromycin, Plaintiff suggested that Defendant change the impugned mark to “AZISMART” instead. Deeming the same as a tongue-in-cheek remark from the Plaintiff, the Court pointed out that the present suit was not instituted for claiming exclusivity over the said prefix and that the combination of “AZI” and “WAKE” made the impugned mark phonetically similar to the Plaintiff’s trademark.

Observing that monetary compensation would not be adequate for the loss resulting from infringement of the Plaintiff’s trademark, and the balance of convenience was in favour of the Plaintiff, the Court issued an interim injunction, restraining the Defendant from using the impugned mark “with or without any prefixes or suffixes, in respect of pharmaceutical preparations, or for any other allied of cognate goods or services”. However, with respect to existing stock, the Court allowed the Defendant to proceed with its sale subject to the submission of affidavits with requisite details in this regard.

[1] Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited vs. Smart Laboratories Pvt Ltd [IA 20597/2023 in CS(COMM) 744/2023]