What is a trademark infringement?

The Delhi High Court dismissed a trademark infringement case filed by a global fast food corporation against a Delhi-based restaurant.

What is a trademark?

  • A trademark is a symbol, design, word, or phrase that identifies a company.
  • When a trademark is registered, the owner gains “exclusive rights” to use it.
  • The Trademark Act of 1999 governs the trademark regime and registration.
  • The Act protects trademarks that have been registered with the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks, also known as the trademark registry.
  • A trademark is valid for ten years and can be renewed indefinitely by the owner every ten years.

Violation of trademark

  • Using a registered trademark without the permission of the entity that owns the trademark is a trademark violation or infringement.
  • Using a substantially similar mark for comparable goods or services may also constitute infringement.
  • In such cases, courts must determine whether this can lead to consumer confusion between the two.
  • There are several ways in which a trademark can be infringed. However, the trademark owner has to show that the trademark has a distinct character-
  • Deceptive similarity: According to the law, a mark is deceptively similar to another mark if it closely resembles that other mark, potentially confusing the consumer. Such deception can occur through phonetic, structural, or visual means.
  • Passing off: Let’s say a brand logo is misspelt in a way that makes it difficult for the consumer to distinguish. The Supreme Court has ruled that passing off is a “species of unfair trade competition or of actionable unfair trading by which one person, through deception, attempts to obtain an economic benefit of the reputation which other has established for himself in a particular trade or business”.
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