A Coffee Controversy: Starbucks vs Sardarbuksh

Introduction

A trademark can be a symbol, a word, a phrase, a logo, a design, or even a combination of these elements. By utilising trademarks as identifiers, consumers can recognise goods and services. Examples of trademarks include Reebok’s brand logo, Coca-Cola’s logo, and Apple’s logo. Examples of trademarks include the phrase “Just do it” and other phrases and objects of a similar kind.

Starbuks vs sardarbusk

People are provided some legal protections known as intellectual property rights to prevent unauthorised exploitation of their creative endeavours. Copyrights, patents, designs, and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property that belong under the umbrella of “intellectual labour.” In this article, you will receive an in-depth introduction to trademarks as well as a discussion of trademark disputes based on established case law. “Starbucks v. Sardarbuksh”

What does the phrase “trademark dispute” mean?

Prior to this paragraph, the definition of a trademark was addressed. And we are all aware of the elements that comprise a conflict. A dispute denotes a disagreement or an argument. Hence, a trademark dispute is a disagreement or conflict between two parties that want to utilise the same trademark or one that is extremely similar to it. Infringing on another’s trademark by employing the same or a confusingly similar mark is known as trademark infringement. In India, it is illegal to infringe on another person’s trademark. So, the perpetrator of the act must bear the repercussions.

Is it feasible for two brands to resemble one another?

Under Section 11 of the 1999 Trademarks Act, the grounds for rejecting or denying the registration of a trademark are outlined. Instead, this section outlines the grounds for why a trademark cannot be registered. One of the reasons a trademark might be rejected or refused registration is because it is “Deceptively Similar.” This indicates that the trademark is identical or similar to another mark, leading to customer confusion. Thus, it is not conceivable for two trademarks to be confusingly identical. This case is significant because it gives a more thorough explanation of the idea of “deceptive likeness.”

It is imperative that we take the route of case illustration to help explain what can be categorised as a deceptively similar trademark.

Essco Sanitation v. Mascot Industries (India)

In a compromise decree, the judgement debtor consented to refrain from producing, selling, or making available for sale in any way sanitary and bathroom fixtures, including brass cocks, that bear the trademarks ESSO, ESSCO, SCO, OSSO, or any other mark that is the same as or confusingly similar to the registered trademark of the decree holder. Every other mark having a mark that is the same as or confusingly similar to the registered trademark of the decree holder is included in this. The following elements must be taken into account when determining whether a given trademark is deceptively similar to another or likely to confuse consumers: (1) the nature of the marks; (2) the degree of similarity between the marks (phonetic, visual, and conceptual similarity); (3) the nature of the goods for which they are used or anticipated to be used as trademarks; and (4) the similarity in the nature, qualities, and function of the goods.

The judgment-trademark debtor decided to disregard the decree-order holder’s request for a permanent injunction since the ‘OSSO’ brand of the decree-order holder and the ‘OSSO’ brand of the judgment-trademark debtor are confusingly similar.

Lord Parker developed the following assessment criteria dealing with an application by Pianotist Company Ltd.:

“You are required to use the two terms that are provided; evaluate them by considering both the things you can see and the sounds you can hear; consider the things they will be applied to; find out what kind of customer is most likely to purchase the product; in fact, you need to investigate the circumstances that surround you and make an educated guess as to what would occur if each of these marks wer “You are required to make use of the two terms that are supplied. You need to assess them taking into account both the things you can see and the sounds you can hear. You ought to take into consideration the things that they will be applied to. Find out what kind of customer is most likely to purchase the product. In point of fact, you need to investigate the circumstances that surround you and make an educated guess about what would take place if each of these marks were utilised as a trademark for the products sold by their separate proprietors. If, after taking into account all of these aspects, you come to the conclusion that there will be confusion — not necessarily that one party will be harmed and the other will gain an unfair advantage, but that there will be confusion in the mind of the general public, which will lead to confusion in the goods — then you have the option of refusing the registration or you are obligated to do so.”

Sardarbuksh v. Starbucks: Case Analysis

Both Sardarbuksh Coffee & Company and Starbucks Corporation are involved in this litigation as parties. Starbucks is the one initiating this legal action, whereas Sardarbuksh is the one who will be defending themselves. Starbucks is a well-known chain of coffee shops that can be found in a variety of countries and is famous for the quality of its coffee. In 2015, Delhi saw the opening of another another coffee shop chain with many establishments. It is known by the name of Sardarbuksh,

Starbucks is famous all around the world, and the company has successfully copyrighted both its name and its logo. It is a well-known brand, and the figure with green hair and a crown that serves as its logo is a virgin. The individual depicted on the insignia for Sardarbuksh wears a turban, and curving lines emanate from his sides. Because of this, the logo of Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. looks an awful lot like the one used by Starbucks. There are a few more similarities, such as the fact that the man wearing a turban in the Sardarbuksh design and the woman wearing a crown in the Starbucks logo both have the same colour scheme. The shape of these emblems is round. As a consequence of this, when we examine them side by side, we find that the logos have a remarkable similarity in terms of their overall design as well as their shape and colour. In addition to this, the names of both coffee shops have a similar cadence to them. It is essential to highlight the fact that the plaintiff and the defendant both provide items and services that have strikingly comparable characteristics.

Upon receipt of a letter of demand from Starbucks Corporation in 2017, the defendants made the necessary adjustments to their trademark, including switching to a colour scheme consisting of black and yellow. After that, they started going about their business utilising the new layout.

Thereafter, Starbucks filed a complaint against Sardarbuksh before the Delhi High Court for using the word mark “Sardarbuksh,” which sounded quite similar to “Starbucks.” The action was filed because Starbucks believed that Sardarbuksh was infringing on its trademark.

Although the defendants have been told to select new branding for their prospective sites, the five current locations will continue to function as normal till the final judgement is handed down by the Delhi High Court. The defendants changed the name of Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. to Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co. in order to more accurately represent their expanded business operations.

On September 27, 2018, the parties met and discussed the terms and conditions of the agreement, and the High Court of Delhi was provided with a copy of the terms and circumstances. It was also defined and agreed upon that the defendant would have the right to sue the offender in question if a third party used the name “Bakhsh.” In addition to this, it was decided that the defendant would change the name of all of its locations to “Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co.” The legal dispute was resolved in accordance with these terms, and the settlement was finalised.

Conclusion

This judgement, in a sense, encouraged the submission of trademark applications. Because it is not possible to create a mark that is confusingly similar to another mark and then use it for one’s own financial gain or to damage the reputation of a registered brand or the owner of the trademark if it is registered, a trademark cannot be exploited in this way. In addition, the legal ramifications will be faced by anyone who makes an attempt to carry out such an action.

Because of the favourable reputation and goodwill associated with a trademark, it is imperative that it is always safeguarded from exploitation, misuse, and infringement. The above cases make it plainly clear that the court can diverge from the law’s language in order to protect justice, defend the rights of company owners, and advance the interests of consumers. When circumstances are similar to these ones, there is a greater likelihood that people will trust the judicial system.

Author: Tushti Thakur, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

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