India – Trade Mark Holder Scores Absolut Victory

V&S Vin & Spirit Aktiebolag (V&S), the owner of the Absolut trade mark, one of the most well-known and reputed brands in the world for spirits and luxury goods, filed a civil suit in India against Bangalore based pharmaceutical company Pharmed and one of its subsidiaries (Pharmed) for infringing, passing off and diluting its well-known trade mark Absolut in India. V&S came to know about the said infringement in 2007 through Pharmed’s website, where it was displaying and offering for sale anti-oxidant capsules and syrups under an identical mark. V&S immediately notified Pharmed of the infringement and misuse of its well-known mark and requested that it immediately cease and desist such infringing acts.

The notice resulted in the initiation of negotiations between the parties wherein V&S suggested adoption of some other marks by Pharmed for its medicinal products particularly for its anti-oxidant capsules and syrups. During the negotiation, V&S also came to know through the Trademark Journal that Pharmed intended to extend the use of the mark Absolut to food supplements and to achieve that objective Pharmed had applied for registration of the mark in India for goods covered in Class 30. Given that Pharmed had attempted to extend its use of the Absolut mark without V&S’ knowledge during on-going talks, V&S decided to end the negotiation talks and immediately filed opposition to Pharmed’s trade mark application. On 11 February 2008, V&S was further concerned by a news report in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore which stated that a government analyst of the Drug Control Laboratory, Mumbai had found that Absolut anti-oxidant syrup as manufactured by Pharmed was “not of standard quality” and accordingly an advisory was issued  by government analyst to chemists, doctors, hospitals and consumers, not to use the syrup made and sold  under the mark Absolut.

Cumulatively, all these facts including the imminent danger of the dilution of its trade mark persuaded V&S to file a civil suit against Pharmed before the Delhi High Court to obtain an interim injunction – an effective remedy available in India to restrain infringement where there is an urgent need to stop the infringing acts. The High Court, while considering the facts of the case and particularly with regard to the prior negotiations held by the parties, granred an ex þarte interim injunction against Pharmed using Absolut as a trade mark for its goods under Class 30. The marter is pending final determination by the court.