No fan of slavishly copied designs

Team Gavel | Updated on: Jul 03, 2022
Representational image

Representational image | Photo Credit: Vipul Umretiya

Delhi HC raps Panasonic for similarities with Havell’s fan design

The Delhi High Court (in Havells India Ltd vs Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt Ltd) has restrained Panasonic from manufacturing, marketing and selling its ‘Venice Prime’ series of ceiling fans. The fans were found to be similar to the ‘Enticer Art-NS Stone’ series manufactured by Havells, an Indian electrical equipment company.

Havells India said it was a “blatant imitation” of its registered design — the Enticer/Enticer Art series of ceiling fans — and wanted an interim injunction to restrict Panasonic and its agents from manufacturing and marketing the product.

Havells said it was the registered design owner for its ceiling fans, including the Enticer range, whose USP was the artistic work in the floral motifs and the unique colour scheme on the trims. These were created by Havells and the company had the copyright. The company further contended that the defendant’s Venice Prime series of fans was a near replica of its registered designs.

In its defence, Panasonic said it has been in the electrical business for over five decades and the Venice Prime series of ceiling fans was inspired from Panasonic’s earlier brand, Captor, launched in 2020. Panasonic also accused Havells of suppression of material facts, such as the pendency of challenge against its impugned registered design.

It also highlighted the differences between the two products.

The single judge, Justice Jyoti Singh, eventually agreed with Havells that Panasonic had “slavishly copied and imitated” Havells’ design.

The court was satisfied that the impugned design had been created with a clear intent to copy the design of Havells. Also, the court was of the opinion that there was no suppression of material facts by Havells.

However, the court also made it clear that the observations and findings were only prima facie and shall have no bearing on the final adjudication of the suit.

Burj vs Burj

Burj Al Arab is an iconic building — a 7-star hotel — in Dubai. Designarch Consultants wanted to build a similar one, styled Burj Noida.

But Jumeirah Resorts, which has been using the word ‘Burj’ since 1999, objected. It has no trademark registration as it pertains to building, construction, repair and installation services but has copyright protection over the artistic works used in the logo. It has a trademark right over the word ‘Burj’.

Designarch felt that Jumeirah had no registration for the mark ‘Burj Al Arab’ (under ‘class 37’) in India; but Jumeirah felt that Designarch had blatantly infringed its trademark.

The Delhi High Court held that Jumeirah’s intellectual property was infringed. However, it permitted Designarch to proceed with its ongoing residential project while stipulating that no further projects should be developed by it under the mark ‘Burj’.

Ás Prayank Khandelwal, a lawyer with Photon Legal, writes in  Mondaq: “Such judgments that have a balanced notion attached to it are a reminder for us that while we select and register a trademark, the primary purpose of a trademark is to distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of another. If a mark is not distinctive, it could lead to confusion in the minds of consumers and deceive them as to the origin of the product or service it represents. The case of Burj Al Arab v Burj Noida is a perfect cue for all the start-ups out there trying to expand and flourish.”

Eco-sensitive zone

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in the case of TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India & Others, has held that every national park or wildlife sanctuary should have an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of minimum 1 km. Developmental activities shall be regulated or prohibited in terms of the ‘Guidelines for the Declaration of the ESZ around the National Parks/Wildlife Sanctuaries’ issued in 2011 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The case arose from a public interest litigation in 1995 for the protection of forest lands in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, the scope of the petition was enlarged to cover the entire country.

The subject arose out of a 2003 report by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) pertaining to mining activities in and around Jamua Ramgarh wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan.

Thereafter, the CEC submitted another report in 2012 dealing with the creation, identification and declaration of safety zones around protected forests across the country.

The SC opined that uniformity may not be possible for every sanctuary or national park, and that the 2011 guidelines are reasonable. It also said that each national park or wildlife sanctuary must have an ESZ of at least 1 km from the boundary of such protected forest in which the activities proscribed and prescribed in the 2011 guidelines shall be strictly adhered to. Further, if the ESZ already prescribed went beyond 1 km, the wider margin shall prevail. No mining activity will be allowed within national parks or wildlife sanctuaries. Subsisting activities, not within the prohibited list, shall be allowed in the ESZ with the permission of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

Published on July 03, 2022
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