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SKODA’S RAPID: NOT SO FAST, SAYS THE COURT

SKODA’S RAPID: NOT SO FAST, SAYS THE COURT

A recent ruling in one of the district courts of India could have huge ramifications for automobile and Car enthusiasts as well as consumers. The ruling is based on the following narrative Czech Car manufacturers Skoda had launched Skoda's Rapid Monte Carlo models to pay homage to the carmaker's 110 years of racing tradition. Monte Carlo is situated in the principality of Monaco and is the home to Circuit de Monaco, which hosts a very coveted Formula One race every year.

However, in India, the trademark for the 'Monte Carlo' name is an Indian clothing and apparel brand from Punjab. In simple words as per the Indian Laws, this means the usage of the name “Monte Carlo” in respect of any product that’s commercially viable rests exclusively with the Punjab based clothing Company. No other entity is permitted to associate “Monte Carlo” with its products without the apparel Company’s prior permission or obtaining a license for doing so. Hence the district court banned Skoda from using the Monte Carlo name in India on any of its cars.

The ban comes via a temporary injunction by a district court issued a few days ago that cites trademark infringement by the automaker. Quoting from what Judge Mukesh Kumar said in case “It is crystal clear that the automobile company, by launching a variant of its car under the clothing company’s trademark, had committed infringement. The plaintiff has a prima facie case on merit and balance of convenience also lies in its favor. The plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss if the injunction is not granted.” The court further added that Skoda's principal officers, partners, and distributors are restricted from "advertising, manufacturing, selling and/or offering for sale, or permitting others to sell or offer for sale, directly or indirectly or dealing in any goods or services, whatsoever under the `Monte Carlo' mark."However, another interesting facet to this controversy is that Skoda already pays a royalty or remuneration to a Monaco-based Monte Carlo Clothing for using its name.

The ruling is not a final decision and only a temporary order. Such orders are used to prevent irreparable damage or preserve the subject matter of the litigation until the trial is over. Hence all is not doomed for the Czech Car Maker. Legally speaking there are various possibilities.

  • ·      The Car maker could simply appeal to a higher court, make a case for itself based on various grounds, and thereby get the district court’s decision reversed. These grounds can range from simple arguments such honest, concurrent use i.e. it being a Czech brand was unaware of an Indian Company called Monte Carlo as it has not acquired any reputation outside India.
  • ·         Moreover, Monte Carlo is the name of a geographical place can’t be monopolized by any company.
  • ·       A more prudent possibility would be just renaming the new models with some other new name. This would be in consonance with the Court Order, a quick means to avoid legal complexities and save time.

For now, till the further course of action is revealed by Skoda, the customers who’ve already booked the car will have to anxiously wait for their beloved cars.

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