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  • Writer's pictureVrinda Sehgal

High Court Restrains Defendant From Selling Goods Bearing VISTARA Marks, Rules in favour of Tata Sia


Introduction


Recently, in the case of TATA SIA Airlines Limited v. Shenzen Coloursplendour Gift Co Ltd & Anr., the Delhi High Court awarded damages of Rupees 20 lakhs (approximately USD 25,000) in favor of the Plaintiff, restraining the Defendant from selling baggage tags and keychains through the Chinese e-commerce platform AliExpress which were identical to the ones used by the Plaintiff, Vistara Airlines.


Background


The Plaintiff, Vistara Airlines, is an Indian airlines that operates for domestic as well as international destinations. The Plaintiff sought to restrain the Defendant from selling or using corporate names, domain names, or listings on social media platforms and/or other e-commerce websites bearing the Plaintiff’s trade marks “VISTARA” /“VISTARA” (Device) (hereinafter referred to as the “VISTARA Marks”). They claimed that the Defendants were engaged in the business of selling baggage tags and keychains bearing the “VISTARA” marks which amounted to trademark infringement, passing off, dilution, tarnishment, and unfair competition.


After presenting strong factual evidence with regards to their registered trademarks and the goodwill and reputation associated with them, the Plaintiff stated that they came across the Defendants activities in 2020. They further stated that the Defendant was selling identical baggage tags and keychains with the same aubergine and gold color combination as that of the Vistara Marks on the Chinese e-commerce website AliExpress. Furthermore, it was the case of the Plaintiff that despite being based in China, the Defendant’s goods were available for sale in India since they could be shipped.


The Plaintiff also claimed that as per their Cabin Crew Service Manual, the flight crew of the Plaintiff must promptly display the crew baggage tags which are issued by the Plaintiff. They stated that this policy has been adopted to differentiate crew baggage from passenger baggage and ensure proper security measures. The Defendant’s sale of the impugned products therefore posed a security threat to airports as well as the aircrafts since they could lead to unauthorized entry into airports.


On September 1st, 2020, the Court had granted an ex parte ad interim injunction in favor of the Plaintiff restraining the Defendant from selling and/or manufacturing the baggage tags or keychains bearing the Plaintiff’s Vistara Marks or any other trademarks/logo deceptively similar to the Plaintiff’s Vistara Marks.


Decision


Upon a comparison between the Plaintiff’s tags and keychains versus the Defendant’s products, the Court stated that, ‘use of the Vistara Marks not only amounts to infringement and passing off, but also causes dilution and is likely to cause deception of confusion in the minds of the unwary consumer’.


More importantly, the Court noted that there was a real and imminent threat to the security of national and international airports through mala fide usage of the impugned products being offered for sale by the Defendant. The Court stated, “Airports are an incredibly critical junction of not only travel but also of trade and commerce; any lapse in security, especially by permitting the sale of vagrantly-infringing goods, would be turning a blind eye to obvious wrongdoings of the defendant.”


The Court also noted that in case of an injunction order where the Defendant does not contest the suit, the same fortifies the Plaintiff’s claim that it is guilty of indulging in the activities complained of. Thus, the Court found that the Defendant had no justification for selling the impugned products bearing the identical Vistara Marks of the Plaintiff.


Therefore, the Court granted a permanent injunction in favor of the Plaintiff restraining the Defendant from selling the impugned products. Moreover, the Court also awarded the Plaintiff damages amounting to Rupees 20 lakhs (USD 25000 approximately). The Court noted a previous decision stating that every effort should be made to discourage such parties from indulging in acts of deception.


Conclusion


Trademark infringement cases that potentially pose a security risk to the public, especially like in this case at airports and aircrafts must be dealt with complete strictness. The Delhi High Court in this case has set the right example by not only granting an injunction but also awarding damages in favor of the Plaintiff. The mala fide intention of the Defendant was not limited to gaining economic advantage through sale of the impugned goods but perhaps could also be extended to causing deliberate deception which could be used in breaching security measures. Therefore, the award of damages in such cases becomes all the more necessary to ensure the Defendant's restraint. Another train of thought also suggests that such damages should be awarded against defendants who do not attend court proceedings to ensure that they do not enjoy any benefits from avoiding the judicial system.






For any queries, please write to Ms. Vrinda Sehgal at vrinda@iprattorneys.com.





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