Choice Hotel International (CHI) has an international chain of hotels and being the owner of the brand 'COMFORT INN was aggrieved by the use of the name HOTEL RAJ COMFORT INN, in particular, use of the word 'COMFORT INN' for its hotel business. CHI instituted a claim for injunction against HOTEL RAJ COMFORT INN before the Delhi High Court alleging infringement of its trademark.
CHI contended as follows -
- CHI is a hospitality holding corporation originally set up in 1939 as a non-profit association under the name Quality Courts United and its business consists of franchising, promoting and licensing high quality hotel services in various countries of the world.
- CHI has a substantial reputation in the trademark COMFORT INN used by itself and with different suffixes.
- There are over 2500 properties under the well known COMFORT brand (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Comfort Hotel, Comfort Inn & Suites, Comfort Resort, Comfort Hotel & Suites) worldwide, and include over 1600 COMFORT INN Hotels worldwide of which 11 are located in India.
- CHI contended that the use of the trademark COMFORT INN by Raj Hotels Comfort Inn as a part of their trading style and trade name is highly misleading to travel agents and customers.
Raj contested the claim and argued -
- The question of infringement does not arise as CHI is claiming infringement and other reliefs on the basis of its alleged registered trademark COMFORT INN in Class 16, which pertains to paper and paper products and Raj Hotels is not involved in any activity in relation to class 16, therefore, there is no question of infringement under the said class.
- Raj is using the trade name HOTEL RAJ COMFORT INN since the year 2005 in a bonafide manner. The word RAJ is its family name, while COMFORT and INN are descriptive words that describe a comfortable hotel.
- There is no similarity between COMFORT INN and RAJ COMFORT INN, hence no confusion.
Despite Raj Hotel's contention that CHI mark COMFORT INN is not registered for hotel business, the Court accorded protection to CHI by holding that their brand name COMFORT INN was a well known mark and was entitled to protection even for dissimilar goods.
On similarity of marks, the court observed that it is impossible to accept that a man looking at a trade mark would take in every single feature of the trade mark. The question would be, what would he normally retain in his mind after looking at the trade mark? What would be the salient feature of the trade mark which in future would lead him to associate the particular goods with that trade mark. The court after relying upon the principle that in most persons the eye is not an accurate recorder of visual detail and that marks are remembered rather by general impressions or by some significant detail than by any photographic recollection of the whole and opined that the name HOTEL RAJ COMFORT INN was deceptively similar to CHI's brand COMFORT INN and would result in confusion in the minds of the public. The court thus granted injunction restraining use of the mark COMFORT INN by Raj.