Recent decision of IPAB in the case of E.I.DU Pont De Nemours & Company V. Galpha Laboratories and Ors

This article is relates to a recent judgment of Intellectual Property Appellate Board (hereinafter IPAB) dated 4th December 2014 in the case “E.I.DU Pont De Nemours & Company V. Galpha Laboratories and Ors.

Brief Facts:

On 11th March, 2009 the trademark registry refused the opposition of the E.I.DU Pont De Nemours & Company (appellant herein) and allowed the application of trademark “NOMEX” under application No.499603 in Class 5 of the Galpha Laboratories (respondent herein) under the provisions of the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act,1958. Thus being aggrieved by the rejection by Indian trademark registry, an appeal was filed by the DuPont to IPAB. The copy of the decision made by IPAB can be accessed here.

Background:

The appellant’s Company is a limited company incorporated under Company’s Act 1956 having registered office in Mumbai. The appellant has production facilities for DuPont Crop Protection Products, Dupont Liquid Packaging Systems. The appellant has claimed that they have spent huge amount of time, money and efforts in promotion of trademarks registered under various classes in world over including India. The appellant has further claimed that they are registered proprietor of many trademarks covering more than 50 countries. The appellant has obtained registration and is registered owner of trademark “NOMEX” in many countries including India. The appellant has further stated that all the above registrations of the trademark has been renewed from time to time and are valid and subsisting. The appellant stated that they have obtained trade mark NOMEX under class 22, 16, 17, 23 and 24.

The appellant came to know through an advertisement dated 16th April, 1999 that vide journal No.1197, the respondent had filed an application under the name “NOMEX” vide application No.499603 dated 19th October,1988 under the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958 in respect of pharmaceuticals, medical preparations and substances in Class 5 claiming user as proposed to be used. The appellant has filed a Notice for Opposition dated 13th of August,1999 vide Opposition No.BOM-54010 against the registration of the trademark “NOMEX” in class 5 under the provisions of Trade and Merchandise Marks Act of 1958.

Decision by Assistant Registrar:

After hearing the pleadings by both the parties, the Assistant Registrar has passed an order on 11th of March, 2009 rejecting the Opposition of the appellant on the below grounds.

(i) The Assistant Registrar accepted the contention of the respondent herein that they took search on the trademark registry for the trademark “NOMEX” in Class 5 and also made a market survey in the market for medicinal products and there was no conflicting trademark in Class 5.

(ii) The Assistant Registrar held that there is no similarity and identical with the mark that of the opponent as per section 11(A) revised under section 11(1) of the Act. Hence, there is no possibility of confusion and deception under section 11 (C) revised under section 11 (3) of the

Trademarks Act, 1999. The goods of the applicants are entirely different from the opponent. Further the Assistant Registrar rejected the contention of the opponent that they have not proved prior user period from 1984 to 1988 and used his discretionary power under section 18(4) of the Act by granting registration of the trademark “NOMEX” in class 5 to the respondent.

Thus being aggrieved by rejection, the applicant preferred an appeal in IPAB for challenging the rejection of said Trademark opposition.

 Arguments advanced by the Appellant:

It was argued by the appellant that the Assistant Registrar has failed to appreciate the appellant’s use of the trademark “NOMEX” in the international market since 1963 and in India since 1984. Further Trademark registry has failed to appreciate that the trademark adopted by the respondent is identical to the appellant, who is a prior adopter and user in India. It was further contended that the Assistant Registrar has erred in holding that usage of the mark by the respondent would not cause confusion and deception amongst the members of the public and trade as the respondent buyers are different from that of the appellant.

The appellant further claimed that “NOMEX” is a well-known trademark. The appellant also argued that the Assistant Registrar has failed to appreciate that the respondent has no use and is yet to use the mark and it is identical to the appellant trade mark. The Assistant Registrar has erred in holding the appellant has not proved prior user from 1984 to 1988.The Assistant Registrar erred by disallowing opposition of the appellant and further erroneously used his discretionary power under section 18(4) of the Act, which are contrary to principals of law. The Assistant Registrar has also erred in holding the respondent had taken proper steps, despite of no search report brought on record.

Arguments advanced by the Respondent:

The respondent contended that they had taken care and prior search in selection, adoption as there was no prior use of the trademark in the pharmaceutical industry. The respondent conceived and coined the trademark “NOMEX” for use in respect of medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations falling in Class 5. Further the respondent argued that the registration of application “NOMEX” in Class 5 will not cause prejudice to the appellant under section 9 of the Act as under section 8 to respondent trade mark is distinctive and capable of distinguishing from the goods of the appellant.

Decision of IPAB:

IPAB stated that while perusing the impugned decision of the Assistant Registrar of 11th , March, 2009, the Assistant Registrar has rendered a short cryptic order without assigning cogent reasons by simply quoting the provisions under the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958 revised under sections 11(1) and 11 (3) of the Trademark Act, 1999. The impugned order of the Assistant Registrar failed to disclose on what grounds or on what material record that he has allowed the registration to go ahead by rejecting the contentions of the appellant / opponent and further does not disclose any judicious reasoning, while exercising his discretionary power vested with him under section 18 of the Act for granting the registration to the respondent herein.

Further IPAB observed that the Assistant Registrar at one end admits in his order that the marks are similar and identical, without divulging sound reasoning as to how he had arrived into conclusion that the mark though identical and similar but still there is no confusion or deception. IPAB stated that the Registrar has failed to discuss the cogent reasons in accepting the application of the respondent allowing their trademark to be registered.

Thus in the light of averments, IPAB set aside the impugned order by trademark registry observing that the order was passed in gross violation of principal of natural justice and remanded the matter to the Assistant Registrar to consider the matter afresh by affording opportunity to both sides and pass orders on merits in accordance with law.

About the Author: Mr Sitanshu Singh, Patent Associate, Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at:Sitanshu@khuranaandkhurana.com

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