Parul
Delhi High Court Critics Bare Denials And Decrees A Suit, Considered Suzuki a Well-known Mark
Parul Madaan 16 Jan 2020

Delhi High Court Critics Bare Denials And Decrees A Suit, Considered Suzuki a Well-known Mark

Suzuki Motor v Suzuki (India) Limited

Suzuki Motor (Plaintiff) filed a lawsuit along with an interim appeal seeking injunction against the defendant and other co-defendants for violating their trademark / trade name / corporate name Suzuki. The Defendant and the other co-defendants were injuncted by provisional order of the court. However, the other co-defendants were excluded during the trial stage as they were not necessary parties. Therefore, during the trial stage, the Defendant was the only disputed entity. The plaintiff sought a decree against the defendant pursuant to Order XII Rule 6 of the CPC, as the only defense raised by the defendant in his written statement was questioning the Court's territorial jurisdiction on the ground that the defendant does not have a office in Delhi, which he failed to prove.

The Plaintiff's submissions were as follows:

1.      Since its inception / incorporation in 1909, the Plaintiff has being using the trade mark Suzuki as part of its corporate name. Suzuki, being the Plaintiff's founder's family name, is in no way linked to the Defendant;

2.      The Plaintiff is the registered owner of the Suzuki trade mark in several countries around the world, including India; his earliest Indian registration dates back to 1972.

3.      In 1982, the Plaintiff entered into a joint venture with the Government of India and also licensed its technology to Maruti Suzuki India Limited, a joint venture; the Plaintiff made extensive efforts to promote and publicize the same.

4.      Around 1982, the Defendant adopted its corporate name Suzuki India Limited in relation to its financial and investment business with a malicious and dishonest intention to embrace the tremendous goodwill, name and reputation acquired by the Plaintiff and to pass off and mislead the public that the Defendant's business was related to that of the Plaintiff;

5.      The defendant is not justified in using a Japanese surname and the defendant should have knowledge of the statutory and exclusive right of the Plaintiff to use the Suzuki trade mark

6.      The explanation given (during the hearing) by the Defendant's Managing Director that his father knew someone by Suzuki's name is an afterthought;

7.      Pursuant to the provisions of the CPC, pleadings in the written statement should be clear and an evasive denial of the evidence claimed in the complaint would be considered to be an admission under Order VIII Rule 3 and Rule 5 of the CPC and, thus, the Court would pass a judgment against the defendant under Order XII Rule 6 of the CPC.

 

The Defendant’s submissions were as follows:

1.      The Defendant is an honest and concurrent user and, since 1982, the Defendant has acquired considerable credibility because of its continuous and uninterrupted use of the Suzuki trade mark / brand as part of its trade name Suzuki India Limited.

2.      The present case brought in 2005 amounts to an acquiescence on the part of the Defendants after a delay of more than 25 years.

3.      The name Suzuki was adopted because the father of the Defendant's Managing Director knew someone by Suzuki's name.

4.      That the Plaintiff's use of Suzuki relates exclusively to Automobiles, therefore, claim control over all classes of goods;

5.      That an injunction is not required pursuant to Order XII Rule 6 of the CPC since the defendant made no admission in the written statement.

The Court found that in the present case the defendant chose not to deny the claim of the plaintiff that the adoption of the Suzuki mark by the defendant was deceptive, calculated to be deceiving, and that the defendant had constructive knowledge of the statutory and exclusive right of the plaintiff over the Suzuki mark. The Defendant also refused to dispute that at the time of the adoption of its mark it was fully aware of the Plaintiff's mark Suzuki and that the defendant's wrongful use of the mark Suzuki would cause harm to the Plaintiff and his goodwill and credibility painfully established by the Plaintiff over the years at considerable cost.

On the Defence of 25 years delay and concurrent consumer, the Court also observed that the defendant, being a fraudulent infringer, could not complain of delay and hide behind the defense of delay, laughter or consent as the infringement itself was fraudulent at the very initial stage. The delay and laches alone would not confer legitimacy character on fraud. Since the adoption of the trademark was fraudulent, a delay in bringing an action is not enough to negate the injunction award.

On the argument that the nature of the business of the defendant is different, the Court observed that it is not appropriate, with the evolving principle in the passing-off rule, that the plaintiff and the defendant should engage in the same business field. The Court held that ample material had been collected by the plaintiff to prove that the Suzuki mark of the plaintiff was a well-known mark in India back in 1982 when the defendant took the same. In the industry the name Suzuki has gained distinctive. Accordingly, under Order XII Rule 6 of the CPC, the suit was decreed in favor of the Plaintiff with a finding that Suzuki is a well-known  mark.

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