The Supreme Court issued notice on a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed against an impugned judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court where it found no visual, phonetic or structural similarities between two whiskey brands, Blenders Pride and London Pride.

Interestingly, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the petitioner-Pernod Ricard India Private Limited (Indian subsidiary) took the permission to display the bottles in the Court for bringing out the stark similarities in the trade dress and bottles apart from the name “Pride”.

The bench will now hear the matter on January 19, 2023.

Accordingly, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra directed, “Issue Notice. Keep it after two weeks. Dasti Permitted”.

Rohatgi then requested to issue notice on the petition for stay also, to which the bench agreed.

During the arguments, at the outset, Rohatgi submitted, “They have the permission to bring the product inside. I want to show you the product”.

“Let’s see the product”, responded CJI.

“Yes, you should see the product. There can’t be a better copy, if I may say so”, contended Rohatgi. Further added that even though he has annexed the photographs, he would like to show the bottles. To which CJI then said, “No, we would like to see the product”.

“Both (Blenders Pride and Imperial Blue) are registered brands with more than ₹2000 Crores turnover”, Senior Counsel further submitted.

Keeping both the bottles in front of the Court, Rohatgi said, “In this case the name is not the copy. In this case the trade dress, and even the bottle is identical. And something worse, bottle is absolutely identical”.

To which CJI added “you have said, they have used Seagram also…”.

“Seagram is also mine, which they are using. They are either getting manufactured from somewhere else or getting from Kabadi. Because they can’t get Seagram”, answered Rohatgi.

“You mean the bottle has embossed Segram…”, asked CJI.

Then CJI asked to point out the exact place on the bottle, to which then the counsels attempted to pass on the bottle to the bench to have a closer look. However, the bench refused to take the bottle and suggested to indicate from their place in a light-hearted manner.

Pursuant to which, Rohatgi said that there are three violations in the pertinent case viz., registered mark, packaging, name and bottle. On the shape of the bottle, CJI reminded of his Bombay High Court judgment on Vodka bottles, Gorbatschow Wodka Kg v. John Distelleries Ltd.”

Subsequently, Rohtagi got another bottle “London Pride” to show to the bench, however, the bench said the bottle had a different shape. CJI further said that the term “Pride" is a generic word.

On the deceptive similarity aspect, to further establish the similarities in the name, Rohatgi said that the maximum cases come from Mumbai, Delhi and Tamil Nadu where the relevant disputes have arisen between: Royal Stag-Indian Stag, Blenders Pride-Casino Pride, Amritdhara-Lakshmandhara, Imperial Blue-Imperial Gold, Golden Deer-Double Deer, Johnny Walker-Captain Walker, Lal Kila-Hara Kila, Field Marshal-Sona Marshal, Officer’s Choice-Green Choice.

Then the Bench said that it will issue notice and make it returnable early.

It is to be noted that in the Madhya Pradesh High Court's judgment, the Court had held, “…The first word of the trade mark of plaintiffs is ‘Blenders’ whereas that of the defendant is ‘London’. There is absolutely no similarity in them leave aside any dissimilarity. ‘PRIDE' being a generic, common place and laudatory expression in ‘BLENDERS PRIDE’ mark, the common man would certainly treat ‘BLENDERS’ part of plaintiff's mark as the dominant part. The question of comparison of the words ‘Imperial Blue’ and ‘London Pride’ does not even arise…”.

“….It can be safely presumed with a sufficient deal of certainty that the consumers of such products would be mostly literate and having reasonable intelligence to distinguish between the bottles of Blenders Pride/Imperial Blue and that of London Pride. Even if they are of average intelligence with imperfect recollection, they would be able to differentiate between the rival competing brands… Liquor consumers of scotch whiskey are educated and discerning type. They are literate persons belonging to the affluent class of society.”, the High Court further noted in the judgment.

Cause Title: Pernod Ricard India Private Limited & Anr. v. Karanveer Singh Chhabra

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