Pouring Trouble: Unveiling Copyright Infringement in Tata Water Plus

Pouring Trouble: Unveiling Copyright Infringement in Tata Water PlusThe Delhi High Court, through its decision dated January 10, 2024 (Tata Sons Private Limited & Ors vs Tushar Fulare CS (COMM) 242/2022), restricted Defendant Tushar Fulare from using the trademark ZINC WATER PLUS, trade dress, packaging and label , which was similar to Plaintiff’s TATA WATER PLUS.

The Plaintiff, Tata Sons Private Limited, the parent company of the Tata Group, filed a copyright infringement suit against the Defendant, Tushar Fulare, for engaging in unauthorised use of the distinctive trade dress and packaging associated with the plaintiff’s mineral water product, “TATA WATER PLUS”, and for infringing the well-known trademarks “TATA” and “TATA WATER PLUS.”

The plaintiff claimed that it owns the well-known trademark “TATA” along with various formative trademarks, including “TATA WATER PLUS” in classes 16 and 32. It has been permitted to use such mark through a trademark license agreement dated August 26, 2011. The plaintiff further contended that their mark, unique trade dress, and packaging have been uninterruptedly and continuously used, which has acquired secondary significance.

The plaintiff had come across the defendant’s use of the impugned mark in February 2022 and conducted an independent investigation where the internet searches revealed the defendant’s official websites at www.immunitywaterplus.com and www.zincwaterplus.com. The physical investigation disclosed the defendant’s involvement in manufacturing and supplying packaged water products, which bore similarity to the plaintiff’s trademark and trade dress. The investigation also disclosed that the defendant’s associations were offering opportunities and business contracts with the plaintiff without their knowledge in exchange for money.

The Plaintiffs sought various reliefs, including a permanent injunction, damages, and rendition of accounts. The defendant did not file a written statement or lead evidence. The defendant stated that it has no objection to the suit being decreed against it, but no injunction should be directed with respect to the mark “ZINC WATER PLUS”. Concerning the mark “ZINC WATER PLUS,” they, however, argued, claiming it to consist of common and generic words which were widely used in the water packaging industry and lack of “ZINC WATER PLUS” registration by the plaintiff. The plaintiff did not object to the said argument of the defendant agreeing to restrict its arguments to its trademarks “TATA”, “TATA WATER PLUS”, “TATA GLUCO+”, and “HIMALAYAN. The plaintiff continued to emphasise that the use of the packaging adopted by the defendant should be injuncted, as it used the trade dress, artistic work and the unique and distinct packaging of the Plaintiffs’ products.

The Court noted that since there was no reply filed to the allegations of the plaintiff, an admission of the plaintiff’s claim in entirety was deemed, and accordingly, the Court did not find the need to delve into any other aspect. Considering the arguments of both the parties, the Court decreed in favour of the plaintiff, issuing a restraining order against the defendant for using the impugned mark and label, considering it as similar to that of the plaintiff’s packaging. The Court further directed the defendant to remove all online and offline references to products bearing the Plaintiffs’ marks from their websites and other third-party listings. The Court also awarded damages of INR 50,000 in favour of the plaintiff, along with the costs of the legal proceedings.

The Delhi High Court’s decision upheld the plaintiff’s rights, emphasising the imperative of safeguarding trade dress and labels from unauthorised use. It also highlights the importance of protecting well-known trademarks in India and reinforces the necessity for strong measures to maintain brand integrity and consumer trust.

Authors: Manisha Singh and Anvita Sharma

First Published By: Lexology here