BURGER KING: my way or the highway

Burger King is the newest addition to the growing list of global fast food chains to be introduced in India. Founded in 1954, Burger King is best known for its mouthwatering and sumptuous burgers. In 2014, Burger King Corporation in a joint venture with Everstone Capital, opened its first outlet in India and since then it has become the go to place for fast food. With its signature Whopper Burger, the popularity of Burger King has increased, the same giving McDonald’s a run for its money.

Burger King has been in news ever since it was first launched in India. Such prominence in news is partly attributed to multitude of trademark infringement suits in which Burger King Corporation is a party. A Trademark is a mark which is capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one person from those of others. They indicate the source of goods and services, and thereby protect the customers from being deceived. Burger King Corporation has been the registered proprietor of the mark ‘Burger King’ since 1979, decades before its Indian launch. The main issue which Burger King has faced is the usage of identical or similar names by others. This has culminated in the institution of plethora of suits by them to restrain such use.

In Burger King Corporation vs Ravinder Pal Singh Babbar & Anr, the Plaintiff had filed a suit, for permanent injunction restraining infringement of trademark, passing off, dilution and tarnishment, unfair competition, damages, etc. Defendant No. 1 was using the mark ‘Mr. Singh Burger King’ for his restaurant and catering services. The Plaintiff contended that the use of the ‘Burger King’ by the Defendants, whether alone or in combination with ‘Mr. Singh’ will create confusion in the mind of customers. According to the Plaintiff, the only reason why the impugned mark was chosen by the Defendants was to ride on the success and popularity attained by the Plaintiff. Eventually the matter was settled with Defendants; the latter filed an affidavit where it was stated that the name of the restaurant was changed from ‘Mr. Singh Burger King’ to ‘Mr. Singh Food King’. Similarly, in Burger King Corporation v. Ranjan Gupta & Ors, an interim injunction was passed against the Defendants, which restrained them from using the mark ‘Burger King’ or any other deceptively similar mark. The suit remains pending before the Delhi High Court.

Burger King Corporation has also instituted a case against the proprietors of Burger King Restaurant Pvt. Ltd., a restaurant chain specializing in Indian street food, for trademark infringement.

From the above, it is quite evident that Burger King Corporation still has to bypass many hurdles when it comes to protecting its intellectual property (IP). While the importance and relevance of IP has increased exponentially in the past few years, cavalier attitude is still exhibited by some when infringing others’ IP rights.