Development in Indian Trademark Law in 2019
India moved up one spot up in terms of trademark filings from its previous year’s ranking according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators published in October 2019. The report also pointed out a large increase in trademark filing activity in India i.e. more than 20.9% with resident filing activity overwhelmingly contributing to the double-digit growth. Having remained below 100,000 until 2006, India’s trademark annual filings now exceed 320,000.
The year also saw some judicial and policy development enabling efficient functioning of the trademark laws in the said context. Legislations have also tried to catch up with the ever-increasing activity in the digital space. Some of the essential enactments and pronouncements are stated hereunder:
LEGISLATIVE & POLICY DEVELOPMENTS
- National E-Commerce Policy [Draft]
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) on February 23, 2019 released the National E-commerce Policy to prepare and enable stakeholders to fully benefit from the opportunities that would arise from progressive digitalization of the domestic digital economy. The draft policy laid special emphasis on the compulsory adoption of anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy mechanisms by E-commerce platforms. Such adoption would not only curb piracy and counterfeiting but would further make the transactions explicit for the sellers, trademark owners and consumers enabling the system to work transparently.
- Trade Mark Registry’s Proposal to Restrict Access to Certain Documents
The Ministry of Commerce & Industries on September 06, 2019, issued a public notice inviting suggestions on the categorization of documents put up on their official website as :
- Full access documents which can be viewed and downloaded by the general public.
- Documents with description but viewing and downloading restricted.
Several confidential, personal and exclusive information was being put up via documents that needed to be protected and access to them had to be duly regulated. Hence the proposal.
NOTABLE CASE LAWS
Some of the noteworthy trademark cases for the year 2019 would be:
1. Crocs Inc Usa v. Bata India Ltd & Ors
The plaintiff (Crocs) after an unsuccessful attempt in the lower court to sue the Defendant (Bata) for design infringement, approached the Delhi High Court pressing for an injunction on the ground of passing-off action under common law. The High Court considered the legislative intent of the Design Act of providing monopoly over the design vide registration only for a limited period, thereby making it available for public use after the tenure of the registered design. This objective would be lost if the design was allowed to be used as a trademark since the exclusive rights would then last till perpetuity. However, the court clarified that if there was an additional feature that had been extensively used as a trademark other than what has been protected as design, and goodwill had accrued in relation to the use of such feature as a trademark, it is only those features which could be protected as a trademark.
2. Amway India Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. v. 1MG Technologies Pvt. Ltd. & Anr.
In another important case, the plaintiff (Amway) sought a mandatory and perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from using the plaintiff’s trademark and selling products online without the plaintiff’s consent. The Delhi High Court restrained e-commerce platforms from selling products falling under the direct selling category without the consent of the proprietor of the registered trademark. The court held such an act enabling the sale of the product on the defendant’s website as not only infringement of the plaintiff’s trademark leading to dilution, passing-off and misrepresentation but also ultra vires the “direct selling guidelines 2016”. The court further observed that the intermediaries (e-commerce marketplace) should fulfil the due diligence requirements in order to avail the safe harbour protection.
- Amrish Agarwal v/s Venus Home Appliances Pvt Ltd
It was ruled that in cases alleging trademark infringement, a legal proceedings certificate (LPC) ought to be mandatorily filed along with the plaint. In the said case, the LPC was filed at the stage of final arguments. It was objected on the ground that LPC filed in the last leg of the case ought to be disallowed. The said objection was counter-argued stating that a renewal certificate was brought on record and duly exhibited. In this regard, the Court held that in a trademark infringement case, the Court must be able to see the mark, and therefore an LPC or the certificate of registration along with the journal extract ought to be submitted at the initial stage itself.
The increased trademark filing activity illustrates an increased awareness among emerging entities regarding their intellectual property rights and the necessity to protect them as early as possible. With increased competition, the availment of trademark registration is also becoming a tough nut to crack. Further, the fluid nature of the digital environment poses a continuous challenge to the IP domain. Conducive policy changes and judicial decisions in the past year have dealt with some of these threats but for adequately serving the public interest implementation challenges have to be appropriately addressed
 Available at https://dipp.gov.in/sites/default/files/DraftNational_e-commerce_Policy_23February2019.pdf
 CS (OS) 410/2018, 453/2018, 480/2018, 531/2018, 550/2018, 75/2019 & 91/2019
 CM (M) 1059/2018
Image Credits: Lukas Blazek on Unsplash
Conducive policy changes and judicial decisions in the past year have dealt with some of the threats but for adequately serving the public interest implementation challenges have to be appropriately addressed.