Adiga, family name that originated from coastal belt of Karnataka was subject matter of dispute between parties in food business. The current post discusses an appeal filed by Adiga Sweets (AS) before the Karnataka High Court against the judgement of the Additional City Civil Judge, Bengaluru City. The City Civil Court had after trial granted permanent injunction in favour of the Plaintiff, Vasudeva Adiga Fast Food Pvt. Ltd. (Vasudeva)
Vasudeva in support of its case contended:
- They adopted "ADIGA'S" as trade name in the year 1993 for running their Fast Food Joint which they later changed to "Adiga's Fast Food" in the year 1994. Thereafter, they opened food joints in different parts of Bangalore under different names, such as "Adiga's Delicacy", "Adiga Majestic".
- In 2007, they adopted the name "Vasudeva Adiga's Fast Food". Between 2003 and 2007 they applied for registration of trademarks "ADIGA'S" in Class 30, "ADIGA'S" in Class 42, "VASUDEVA ADIGA'S" in Class 42 which were duly registered.
- In the year, 2005, Vasudeva became aware of the Defendant selling sweets under the name 'Adiga's Sweets' and filed action before the City Civil court and obtained favourable judgement which is challenged by way of this appeal.
Adiga Sweets appealed against the judgement raising following grounds:
- Vasudeva did not have a registered trademark, either as "ADIGA'S", or as "Vasudev Adiga's Fast Food" prior to 2005 and therefore could not have filed the suit for infringement.
- All the food joints are prefixed with the name "Vasudeva" and have earned goodwill in the market in the name of "Vasudeva Adiga" and not as "ADIGA'S". Therefore, the trial Court committed error in concluding that there is phonetic similarity between the two names.
- Vasudeva is running a fast food joint, whereas, Adiga Sweets is selling sweets. The purchasers of the goods as well as the mode of purchasing are different. Therefore, there is no possibility of the ordinary consumer getting confused.
- The trial court erred in concluding that Adiga Sweets acts amount to passing off.
Vasudeva in support of their case argued:
- They commenced business of fast food in 1993 in the name and style of "ADIGA'S". Later, they expanded its business and established various fast food joints in Bengaluru known as "Adiga's Delicacy", and "Adiga Majestic". They have been in business of fast food and even sell sweets at its restaurants, since 1993.
- Adiga Sweets started its business of selling sweets in 2003-2004, and therefore, Vasudeva is obviously the prior user of the unregistered trademark "ADIGA's".
- Both parties deal with food items and even the customers are common and it is a clear case of passing off.
The court after hearing the parties made the following observations:
- The trial court has discussed the concept of passing off and the factors to be considered while deciding the deceptive similarity of trademarks such as the nature of the marks, degree of similarity, the nature of the goods in respect of which they are used as trademarks, the class of purchasers, etc, to decide the matter.
- The trial court has considered the psychological impact of confusion in trademarks and also discussed case laws from the United States of America in this regard. The Judge has discussed and relied on the aspect that brand names serve as information chunks enabling the consumer to efficiently organize, store and retrieve information from the memory. Thus, brand name plays an integral part in the decision making of the consumer.
- Admittedly, Vasudeva had opened its restaurant in the name and style of ADIGA'S in 1993 and expanded its business of fast food restaurant, built goodwill in the market for its food products and is also selling sweets. Moreover, Adiga Sweets is also using the identical name "ADIGA'S" suffixed with the word "SWEETS". Thus, an average customer is most likely to confuse between Vasudeva Adiga's Fast Food and ADIGA'S SWEETS due to the use of the common name ADIGA'S.
- The High Court further held that the trial judge was right in finding that Adiga Sweets acts amount to passing off taking into account that both parties are using the same name "Adiga's and also dealing in food items. The court also relied on an earlier case filed by Vasudeva wherein, it was held that even if the name Adiga's were suffixed or prefixed with other name, still it would be a case of infringement and/or passing off.
In view of the above the High Court refused to interfere with the Judgment of the trial court and dismissed the appeal.