Sweet Victory

As known to most Indian, in the country and abroad, the mere reference to “HALDIRAM” has conjured up images of delectable snacks, savoury sweets, and the mouth-watering aromas of India’s cherished culinary heritage. From bustling city streets to quaint rural towns, this homegrown brand has become a fixture in households across the subcontinent and beyond. Finally, the Delhi High Court in its landmark ruling in Haldiram India Private Limited vs Berachah Sales Corporation & Ors[1], has recognized HALDIRAM’S’ preeminent status, declaring the brand’s trademark as “well-known” trademarks.

The Court while delivering the judgment quoted;

“As evidenced by the documents placed on record, plaintiff’s global footprint is indicative of the brand’s robust spill-over where the authenticity of ‘HALDIRAM’S’ products resonate with a diverse with a diverse audience including in those regions where the brand does not have legal presence[2]’’.

By delving into the legal intricacies, this piece aims to empower readers with a deeper understanding of the concept of well-known trademarks, passing-off[3] action, infringement suits and the vital role they play in shielding consumers from deception and confusion.

Background of the Case

The roots of this legal dispute stretch back to 1941 when the mark ‘HALDIRAM BHUJIAWALA/HALDIRAM’S’ was first coined, drawing inspiration from the founder’s grandfather’s nickname. Since its inception, Haldiram has burgeoned from a modest establishment in Bikaner, Rajasthan, into a global culinary phenomenon, renowned for its unwavering commitment to quality and innovation.

According to the plaintiff, HALDIRAM’S uses two distinct marks for its brand – the V-shaped and the oval-shaped logo. The V-shaped mark features the letters “HRB” arranged in a dynamic, angular configuration. This is Haldiram’s registered trademark “HALDIRAM BHUJIAWALA,” which the company has been using since 1965. This bold logo instantly evokes Haldiram’s rich culinary heritage. The oval-shaped logo frames the “HALDIRAM’S” name in an elegant design. Haldiram uses this logo across its registered trademarks, especially for its food products. These two logo designs have become synonymous with Haldiram’s enduring legacy. The company strategically uses these registered trademarks across its expansive product range, creating a cohesive and instantly recognizable brand identity. In 2019, the defendants’ initially incorporated a company with the name “Haldiram Restro Pvt. Ltd’’ which was the commencement of their infringing activity. Subsequently, the plaintiff brought a suit against the defendants under section 16(1)(b) of the Companies Act, 2013[4]. The defendant company also went ahead with the registration of the domain name www.haldiramrestro.com.

The defendants did not stop here, but they started selling products like salt, oil, water, soda, ghee etc. to other companies via online and offline interactions. The defendants’ unauthorized use of the “HALDIRAM” mark started causing consumer confusion, potentially leading them to believe that the plaintiff, i.e., ‘HALDIRAM,’ committed the breach of performance.

Remedies Sought by the Plaintiff

Haldiram India Pvt. Ltd. initiated legal proceedings to protect its trademark ‘HALDIRAM’S and its variations, particularly ‘HALDIRAM BHUJIAWALA’, under the Trade Marks Act, 1999. The plaintiff seeks to establish the ‘well-known’ status of its mark in accordance with Section 2(1)(zg) of the Act[5]. Additionally, the plaintiff demanded a permanent injunction against the defendants, prohibiting them from selling products under the contested marks ‘HALDIRAM’ or ‘HALDIRAM BHUJIWALA’, or any other marks that bear deceptive similarity to the plaintiff’s mark ‘HALDIRAM’.

The court’s task was to assess the strength and reputation of the Haldiram brand, both within India and on a global scale, and determine whether the defendant’s unauthorized use of the similar mark infringed upon company’s intellectual property rights.

Outcome of the Dispute

The Delhi High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, permanently restraining the defendant from using the impugned marks and awarding Haldiram damages of Rs. 50 lakhs and costs of Rs. 2 lakhs.

The court’s decision was underpinned by a comprehensive analysis of Haldiram’s brand presence and reputation. The court observed that Haldiram has not only established a strong presence in the national market but has also expanded its influence globally, transcending geographical, cultural, and national boundaries. The court recognized Haldiram’s’ “robust spill-over reputation,” where the brand’s authenticity and appeal resonate with a diverse audience, even in regions where the company does not have a legal presence. This is a testament to the brand’s deep connection with India’s rich culinary tradition and its ability to captivate.

The  Extensive  Scope  and  Influence  of  Well-Known  Trademarks

The court emphasized on the significance of reputation and goodwill in declaring a mark as ‘well-known.’

As per section 2 (1) (zg) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999[6];

“ well- known trade mark’’, in relation to any goods or service, means a mark which has becomes so to the substantial segment of the public which uses such goods or receives such services that the use of such mark in relation to other goods or services would be likely to be taken as indicating a connection in the course of trade or rendering of services between those goods or services and a person using the mark in relation to the first mentioned goods or services[7]”.

[1]  Haldiram India Private Limited vs Berachah Sales Corporation & Ors 2024/DHC/2517

[2] Ibid (n1)

[3]  Sunil Prakash, “Passing Off and Infringement of Well-Known Trade Marrk’s In India”, International Journal of Law, Management & Humanities, Vol. 1 (2018)

[4] Companies Act, 2013 Section 16 (1) (b)

[5] Trade Marks Act, 1999 Section 2 (1) (zg)

[6]  Ibid (n5)

[7] Ibid (n5)

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