Delhi High Court Quashes Forgery Case Filed by Anchor Health Against Colgate Palmolive

Delhi High Court Quashes Forgery Case Filed by Anchor Health Against Colgate PalmoliveIn a significant legal development concerning a trademark dispute between two dental care giants, the Delhi High Court has quashed a forgery case filed by Anchor Health and Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd. against Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd. The case revolved around allegations of forged documents related to trademark registration. This article delves into the intricacies of the case, the Court’s rationale, and its broader implications.

Background of the Case

The legal tussle between Anchor and Colgate began when Colgate instituted a suit (CS(OS) 1709/2005) before the Delhi High Court alleging trademark infringement by Anchor. The core issue was using a red and white combination on toothpaste packaging, which Colgate claimed was a registered trademark. Anchor countered this claim, asserting that Colgate’s registration certificate was forged. Thus, a complaint before the Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) alleging forgery was filed by the Anchor stating that the documents submitted by Colgate in the suit, including the certificate of registration for Trademark No. 1223059 and its certified copy for use in legal proceedings, were forged and never issued by the Trade Mark Registry​​. The MM took cognisance of the complaint and summoned accused persons, including Colgate company and its directors, as well as a deputy registrar of the Trade Marks Registry, who was stated to be in collusion with Colgate. The Colgate challenged the summoning order as well as the complaint before the Delhi High Court, invoking its inherent powers and jurisdiction.

Contention of Parties

Colgate contended that the entire case hinges on errors made by the Trade Mark’s Registry. To substantiate this, Colgate submitted that an application for registration was filed with the Trade Marks Registry for “Colgate Strong Teeth Carton” in the colour combination of red and white. It was highlighted that the errors were committed by the Trade Mark Registry on two occasions, i.e., initially when the Trade Mark No. 1223059 was published in “black and white” in the Trade Mark journal, despite the application and approval being for a red and white colour combination. Subsequently, when a certified copy for legal proceedings was issued with the correct red-and-white combination, it was argued that these errors were inadvertent and that Colgate and its directors should not face prosecution for these errors. The allegations against them were argued to be baseless and frivolous, and hence, Colgate prayed that the summoning order and complaint should be quashed.

Whereas the Anchor highlighted several notable details and omissions in an advertisement published in the Trade Marks Journal for Trade Mark No. 1223059, such as:

  1. It clearly states it is an advertisement before acceptance under Section 20(1) of the Trade Marks Act.
  2. The advertisement included the allocated number (1223059) and the date (14.08.2003).
  3. It provided full particulars of Colgate, the trademark applicant.
  4. It describes the goods for which the Trade Mark is applied and the class of goods.
  5. The packaging carton image in the advertisement was in black and white and not in colour.
  6. There was no claim regarding the specific shade of red and white applied to the carton.
  7. A disclaimer stating that the splash colours yellow and blue do not form part of the mark and are only to embellish the carton that was missing from the advertisement.

Anchor hence argued that the Registrar of Trade Marks issued the certificate of registration without proper procedure and denied Anchor the opportunity to oppose Colgate’s application when it was advertised.

It was contended by Anchor that in a suit, Colgate filed a purported certified copy of Trade Mark registration no. 1223059 “for use in legal proceedings”. This certified copy should have been an exact replica of the original certificate, but it was a fabricated version. The document was a two-page composite: the first page did not display the Trade Mark and only referred to an annexed representation, while the second page showed a coloured copy of the packaging carton in red and white. These two pages were grouped to create the impression that the document was a true copy of the registered Trade Mark.

Anchor also highlighted that during the pendency of the suit, another document purporting to be a certificate for use in legal proceedings was submitted. This document consisted of three pages:

  1. First Page: A covering letter dated 28.02.2006, signed by the Deputy Registrar.
  2. Second Page: Mentioned the Trade Mark registration and referred to another annexure, stating it was a true copy of Registration number 1223059.
  3. Third Page:
    • Upper Half: Included the registration number 1223059, application details (Colgate), registration date, certificate number, Trade Mark type, wordmark, goods description, classification of goods, and a note under ‘conditions and limitations’ stating that the mark consisted of a particular shade of red and white applied to the carton, while the splash colours yellow and blue were not part of the mark but served to embellish the carton.
    • Lower Half: Reproduced the exact replica of the black and white advertisement before acceptance, without any colour claim or disclaimer.

Hence, it was argued that the documents were fabricated and forged.

Interestingly, Anchor had also filed an application, while making the same allegations as in the forgery complaint, under section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) in the suit seeking a preliminary enquiry by the Court in respect of the evidence and document produced by Colgate.


Anchor also filed a writ petition against the Trade Marks Registry for quashing the registration certificate issued in favour of the Colgate. In the reply filed by the Registry, it was admitted that the advertisement was published in black and white and did not reflect any colour combination of red and white.

Court’s Analysis and Judgment

The Delhi High Court’s analysis centred on the validity of the documents in question and the procedural propriety of the trademark registration. The Court took note of the reply filed by the Trade Marks Registry in the Writ petition of Anchor and observed a noteworthy fact that the Registry did not deny the issuance of the documents filed by Colgate in the suit, which were claimed to be forged by Anchor. And that the documents were signed and sealed by the Deputy Registrar of the Trade Marks Registry, a person authorised to do so. Thus, the Court held that it was incumbent upon the MM to conduct an inquiry from the office of the Trade Marks Registry to ascertain whether the alleged forgery was reflected in the department’s records.

The Court observed that the case of the Anchor was not that the seals used in the copy or the signatures of the issuing authority had been forged. However, the copy of the registration certificate did not conform with the application advertisement. To prove this, the same needs to be verified from the Registry records. The Court relied upon the Supreme Court’s judgment in Mohd. Ibrahim and others v. State of Bihar and another to hold that the case of the Anchor that certified copy of the certificate issued by the registrar in collusion with Colgate would amount to forgery was not made out. As such, to make out a case of forgery, it is not sufficient to prove that a document has been made or executed dishonestly or fraudulently. There is a further requirement that it should have been made with the intention of causing it to be believed that such a document was made by the authority of a person by whose authority he knows that it was not made. Applying this principle, the Court held that the forgery was not made out.

The High Court also noted the bar under section 195(1)(b) of the Cr.P.C., which prohibits any court from taking cognisance of any offence of giving false evidence in Court, which is punishable under section 193 Indian Penal Code, et al., except on complaint on that behalf made by that Court. The Court was of the view that since an application under section 340 Cr.P.C. for preliminary enquiry on similar allegations of giving false evidence [which, if allowed, will lead to the filing of a complaint by that Court in terms of section 195(1)(b)] is already filed by the Anchor, therefore bar of section 195(1)(b) will apply, and the complaint will not be maintainable. It relied upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in M/s Bandekar Brothers Pvt. Ltd. v. Prasad Vasudev Keni to hold that an inquiry under section 340 cannot be separated from the alleged forgery of documents as the foundational fact for initiation of prosecution for an offence under section 193 IPC would be establishing the fact that the documents are forged. Thus, the Court quashed the complaint and the summoning order.

Implications of the Judgment

The Delhi High Court’s decision to quash the forgery case has several implications:

  1. Trademark Litigation: This judgment underscores the importance of procedural correctness in trademark registration and the use of such documents in litigation. It sets a precedent that procedural irregularities do not necessarily constitute criminal forgery.
  2. Burden of Proof: The ruling highlights the burden of proof required to substantiate claims of forgery. Allegations must be supported by concrete evidence, especially in cases involving complex legal and procedural issues.
  3. Legal Strategy: For companies involved in trademark disputes, this case emphasises the need for meticulous legal strategy and documentation. Companies must ensure that their legal submissions are beyond reproach to avoid similar challenges.
  4. Judicial Precedents: The decision aligns with existing judicial precedents regarding the definition and proof of forgery. It reinforces the principle that merely procedural lapses without fraudulent intent or actions do not constitute forgery.


The Delhi High Court’s decision to quash the forgery case filed by Anchor against Colgate marks a crucial juncture in trademark litigation. It not only resolves a long-standing dispute between two major companies but also provides clarity on the legal standards for proving forgery in the context of trademark registration. As businesses navigate the complex terrain of intellectual property rights, this judgment serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to procedural norms and the rigorous requirements for substantiating allegations of criminal conduct.

Authors: Manisha Singh and Nisha Sharma

First Published by: Mondaq here