Delhi HC Confirms status of 'AMUL' as well-known trademark in infringement suit

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It would be challenging not to acknowledge, recognize, and accept the substantial, distinct reputation, goodwill, and ongoing use associated with the trademark 'AMUL', the court stated

In a recent trademark infringement suit, the Delhi High Court confirmed the status of 'AMUL' as a well-known trademark, enjoying protection across all classes. Amul had initiated a rectification petition under Sections 47 and 57 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 against one D N Bahri Trading. 

The bench of Justice Anish Dayal remarked, “Not only is the coined word ‘AMUL’ distinctive for the acronym for Anand Milk Union Ltd., but also has been recognized as a well-known trademark in 2011, therefore getting protection across all classes”.

Amul’s petition sought to rectify the Register by removing D N Bahri Trading’s trademark. The petitioner claimed rights in the trademark 'AMUL', encompassing both the word mark and various other device marks and formative marks.

Advocate Vishal Nagpal, representing Amul, argued that the adoption of the trademark 'AMUL' as an acronym held significant historical roots dating back to 1946. Over time, 'AMUL' gained prominence, notably marked by milestones such as the establishment of the first milk processing plant in 1955 and its involvement in 'Operation Flood.' It was pointed out that initially, Amul permitted other Co-operative unions in Gujarat to utilize the 'AMUL' brand, but later in 1973, formed Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (GCMMF) for nationwide marketing. A license agreement was formalized in 2001, granting uninterrupted use of the 'AMUL' trademark to GCMMF.

Advocate Ajayinder Sangwan, representing D N Bahri Trading, argued that the petitioner's trademark in class 32 was structurally and visually distinct from D N Bahri's mark. They asserted that the goods traded by both parties were different, with the latter claiming to have used the mark since 1957.

The court observed that rectification of a mark required Amul to demonstrate compliance with the conditions outlined in Sections 9, 11, 47, or 57 of the Trademarks Act. Additionally, the court recognized the significant and continuous reputation and goodwill associated with the petitioner's trademark 'AMUL'. The term 'AMUL' was distinctive as the acronym for Anand Milk Union Ltd. and had been acknowledged as a well-known trademark since 2011, thus enjoying protection across all classes.

The argument put forth by D N Bahri that 'AMUL' was a generic term derived from the Hindi word 'Amulya' ("अमूल्य"), and therefore, the petitioner could not claim dominance over the mark, was deemed untenable by the court. This was particularly evident as 'AMUL' had acquired strong distinctiveness in favor of the petitioner. Reference was made to a previous judgment where an injunction was granted against AMUL Cookware, indicating that action for infringement could be taken even concerning dissimilar goods that were deceptively similar to those of the petitioner.

It is evident that the trademark 'AMUL' has gained widespread recognition nationwide, extending beyond milk and milk products. These products are not only available in retail stores but also in outlets operated or franchised by AMUL, exclusively selling its products. The 'AMUL' mark has thus become significantly important, directly linked to the petitioner's goods, and its protection is applicable across all classes, having been declared a well-known mark, court held.

Accordingly, court allowed Amul's petition. 

Case Title: Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd & Anr. v D N Bahri Trading As The Veldon Chemical And Food Product & Anr (2024:DHC:2868)