Louis Vuitton Malletier vs. Iqbal Singh and others

Louis Vuitton is a luxury retail company and one of the top fashion houses in the world. The logo ‘LV’ is a protected trademark. All the products are monogrammed with the trademark LV making it one of the most valuable brands in fashion. A suit for injunction was filed by Louis Vuitton Malletier (India) against Iqbal Singh and others as the defendants were accused of trademark infringement of the logo LV.

The products of plaintiff are exclusive and have a high reputation in the market. The plaintiff has been using the trademark LV continuously and uninterruptedly since 1896. The plaintiff has a copyright over a design “Toile Monogram” which consists of flower patterns on canvas. These are both protected in India and have been recognized by Delhi High Courtin Order dated March 31, 2014 as passed by the Delhi High Court in Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Arif Khatri &Anr., CS (OS) 270 of 2014 (Exhibit No. PW-1/21); and  Order dated May 9, 2009 as passed by the Delhi High Court in Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Abdul Salim &Ors., CS (OS) 90 of 2006 where they were termed as well-known marks and protected under trademarks. The defendant’s own shops in Sadar Bazar, Delhi and were alleged of dealing counterfeit goods which infringed the trademark of the plaintiff.

A regular civil suit was filed in December 2011, for permanent injunction restraining infringement of its trademark, passing off, dilution, rendition of accounts of profits, damages and delivery up. The summons for the suit was directed to the defendantsby joint registrar and an ex-parte injunction was granted in favour of plaintiff when the defendants failed to appear. The defendants applied for a condonation of delay and filed a written statementbut the matter was presented before the court before the documents could be examined.

The infringement came into light during the survey done by the investigator for the plaintiffs. The court appointed two commissioners who found 8 wallets in the possession of Defendants bearing LV trademark.The case was referred to Delhi High Court Mediation and Conciliation Centre, but parties failed to arrive at a settlement. The matter was referred to the commissioner for recording evidence of the suit. The defendants counsel informed the commissioner that defendants were not responding to communications when plaintiffs applied for bringing certain documents on record and it was allowed after payment of costs.

The defendants filed a written statement but did not file any evidence and did not refute any evidence presented by plaintiffs. It did not disclose any material facts of the case and just contended the plaintiffs were guilty of suppression of material facts.The defendants stated that they have been in innocent use of the name of name of “Louis Vuitton Malletier” for the last over 8 to 9 years. The Defendants had nothing to do with the logo of the Plaintiff and are usingtheir own logo since the inception of the business. They also claimed that there was no cause of action for the case. The plaintiffs evidence proved that the defendants were guilty of infringement and were contrary to the contentions made by defendants in written statement. The plaintiffs also stated that defendants have been violating plaintiffs registered trademark for 8-9 years and an aggravated punitive damage be awarded to the plaintiff for dilution of trademark. The damages claimed by plaintiff were Rs. 1 Crore for illegal activities done by plaintiff for 8-9 years and estimating a profit of Rs. 5000 per day. This was the quantum of damage or loss suffered by plaintiff due to infringing activities by defendants and unfair profits earned by them.

Decision
The court found that the defendants were guilty of infringement and their conduct was egregious and called for the court to draw adverse inference against them. The suit was decreed in favour of plaintiff and damages of Rs. 3,50,000 were awarded flagrant activities against the rights of the plaintiff. The cost of litigation including advocate’s fees Rs. 9,27,296 was also awarded to the plaintiff.

Conclusion
The interim decision of court was held up for injunction providing immediate relief to the plaintiffs. The Case set a precedent for future cases related to trademark infringement and passing off and selling of counterfeit goods where the registered trademark is being exploited on basis of goodwill. The decision will deter others from indulging in similar infringing activities.

About the Author: Divyanshi Arora, LLM student from Symbiosis Law School, Intern at Khurana and Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at swapnils@khuranaandkhurana.com

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