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The Coca-Cola Company vs Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd.

The Coca-Cola Company vs Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd.

Introduction

Who is going to take the “Maaza”? Well, it is mandatory to mention the famous case of coca cola and Bisleri over the trademark Maaza where Bisleri assigned its trademark Maaza to Coca Cola to sell and export products in and from India and immediately after, filed a trademark Application in Turkey.

The case Coca-Cola vs. Bisleri international is a landmark judgment in the history of intellectual property rights as well as trademarks in India.

It was held that the rights over the trademark were completely assigned to Coca Cola and Bisleri cannot use the trademark in or outside India. This case is popularly known as the ‘Maaza’ case.

Facts of the Case:

On 18 September 1993 defendant, Bisleri International earlier known as Aqua Minerals Pvt Limited sold its, intellectual property rights to five other brands called Thums Up, Limca, Gold Spot, Citra, and Mazza.

The intellectual property rights include trademark, formulation rights, goodwill, and know-how. In 2008, the plaintiff filed an application for registration of the trademark ‘Maaza’ in Turkey.

After intimation of this information to the defendant, the defendant sent a legal notice to the plaintiff renouncing the Licensing agreement and terminating the plaintiff from further production of product Mazza or using its trademark directly or indirectly.

The notice said that plaintiff had breached the agreement by applying for registration of trademark ‘Maaza’ in Turkey.

However, it was also found by The Coca-Cola Company that Bisleri had allowed third-party companies interventions such as Verma International and M/s. Indian Canning Industries and had been selling the products in Turkey via Aqua Minerals now known as Bisleri. 

Issues raised:

Issues raised in Delhi High Court were:

  1. Whether Delhi High Court has jurisdiction over this matter?
  2. Has infringement of trademark occurred?
  3. Is the plaintiff entitled to get a permanent injunction?
  4. Whether export of the products with the trademark “Maaza” considered a trademark infringement in the exporting nation?
  5. Is ‘Varma International’ a party in this case?

Rules:

  1. According to Sections 41(h) and 41(l) of the Specific Relief Act 1993, the suit cannot be barred as there was a detrimental or consensual contract between the two parties. And therefore, the plaintiff is entitled to get a permanent injunction in order to fulfil and enforce their exclusive rights.
  2. As per section 42 of the Specific Relief Act 1993, the defendant company is not entitled to use the trademark ‘Maaza’. It says that “the plaintiff will be entitled to the injunction if they had performed their part of the contract as was binding on them.” This means the plaintiff will get an injunction if he has done or completed his part of the contract.
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Judgement:

The defendant demanded the vacation of the court’s order on the grounds that this court does not have the jurisdiction. However, according to the criminal law perspective, the Indian Penal Code (1860) has an extra-territorial jurisdiction wherein an offence committed by an Indian citizen on a foreign land will still hold that person liable.

So according to this principle, Delhi high court has jurisdiction in this matter. The goods were manufactured in India and getting sold in Turkey due to this the court has the power to take up this matter.

The Delhi high court restricted the sale of Maaza product by Bisleri in India and an interim order of injunction was passed against the defendant company Bisleri preventing them to use the trademark each purchasable in India and export merchandise.

It absolutely was worn out in order to stop the plaintiff from suffering irreparable loss and injury and the appeal filed by the Bisleri company was invalidated by the court.

It was also held that the manufacture of goods was meant to be for the sale in other countries and Bisleri still had the right to sell products in other countries, the court should have passed an order of injunction only for its sale in India and not for the exports.

Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd has registered the trademark of Mazza all over the world whereas Coca-Cola company owned the trademark of Mazza only in India and suddenly if it tries to take all the rights and trademark throughout the world then it would be unjustified on their part to claim an injunction on the manufacture for exports.

And upon investigation, it was found that Verma International was exporting the product with a trademark to Australia. The Court also held that there was an infringement of trademark because the product was manufactured in India and then exported and in export, it is considered to be a sale made in the nation, thus making Verma International a party to the case.

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The Court further upheld the injunction against Verma International to prevent it from making any further sales and costing The Coca-Cola Company a lot of money.

Case Analysis:

Arguments:

The argument made by the plaintiff was as the trademark Maaza was assigned to Coca-Cola in the Indian market. Any production or manufacture of a product with this trademark to sell in India or to export to another nation would be considered an infringement of trademark and IPR laws.

In the counter-argument, the defendant argued that, as the product is sold in Turkey and not India there was no infringement of the plaintiff’s right.

It was further argued that the defendant has registered the trademark Maaza worldwide and so it has the authority to sell its product anywhere in the world.

Interpretations and Results:

Identical or Perplexingly Similar: 

The contested domain name incorporates the Complainant’s trademark Coca-Cola, as well as the second-level domain characters “.eu” and the generic top-level domain extension “.com.”

Neither the second level nor the gTLD characters differentiate the domain name – that is, the Complainant’s patented Coca-Cola is the domain name’s only distinguishing attribute.

The contested domain name is confusingly identical to the Complainant’s trademark, according to this Panel.

Legitimate Interests vs. Rights: 

The absence of a provision for a registrant of a third-level domain name in the.eu.com> domain to determine eligibility to the domain name (or, as the Respondents put it, the absence of “restrictions” on registration) does not imply that registration alone confers a right or legal interest in the domain name.

The Respondents have not presented any proof of any fact that would determine they have a right or legal interest in the contested domain name, and considering the Complainant’s significant prestige in the COCA-COLA trademark, this is particularly troubling.

It is difficult to imagine the Respondents have some right or legal interest in the domain name. The Respondents have no rights or legal interests in the contested domain name, according to this Panel.

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Used in bad faith: 

The testimony shows that the first Respondent tried to transfer the contested domain name to the Complainant in order to collect money for the second Respondent’s nascent political group.

This data clearly supports the argument that the Respondents registered the domain name solely to sell, rent, or otherwise pass it to the Complainant for lucrative compensation in excess of recorded out-of-pocket expenses specifically related to the domain name.

According to the Policy, paragraph 4(b)(i), this Panel determines that the disputed domain name was registered and used in bad faith.

Conclusion:

The Trademark is a unique symbol or word(s) used to represent a business or its products. Once registered, that same symbol or series of words cannot be used by any other organization, forever, as long as it remains in use and proper paperwork and fees are paid.

As the definition explains what trademark is, the present case is an elaboration to the definition of Trademark. If a trademark is licensed by a corporation, no other corporation may use it, or it may constitute an infringement.

It was a similar situation in the present case where the defendant sold all the rights of the trademark to the plaintiff but still used it, resulting in a trademark infringement suit. The present case is a landmark case concerning patent infringement.

The issues raised were of the jurisdiction and infringement. But this case has made it evident that the Trademark is a global phenomenon and it protects proprietors across boundaries.

Also, this case has made it clear that a trademark of any organization can be registered anywhere once there is an assignment conferring the rights entirely, be it within the country or outside of it.

The judgement laid the groundwork for several similar decisions where separate companies that have rights over the same goods in different nations will supply products to the same manufacturers.

References:

https://indiankanoon.org/doc/109517976/

Nithyakalyani Narayanan, The case Coca-Cola company VS Bisleri international PVT LTD, (Jan 22, 2021, and 9:30 PM), https://lawsisto.com/legalnewsread/ODQ2NA==/THE-COCA-COLA-COMPANY-VS-BISLERI-INTERNATIONAL-PVTLTD

Mohammed Farhan C., case study Coca-Cola VS Bisleri international (Jan 21, 2021, and 10:30 PM), https://lawcutor.com/intellectual-property-laws/case-study-the-coca-cola-co-v-bisleri-international-pvt-ltd/

Siddharth Kate, Coca-Cola vs. Bisleri international PVT LTD: A case study (Jan 22, 2021, and 10:30 PM), https://whitecode.legal/more/ODY0/Coca-Cola-vs-Bisleri-International-A-case-study

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