Apex court rejects Marico’s claim on ‘low absorb’ trademark

| Updated on: Mar 01, 2011

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of Marico Industries, maker of cooking oils Saffola and Sweekar, challenging the use of the slogan ‘low absorb’ by Agro Tech Foods, an affiliate of American foods giant ConAgra Foods.

Marico had objected to the use of ‘low absorb’ by Agro Tech Foods, which owns the country’s largest-selling brand of edible oil, Sundrop, claiming that it was trademarked.

A Bench comprising Mr Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha dismissed the petition filed by Marico challenging the order of the Delhi High Court, which had declined to entertain the plea that ‘low absorb’ was its registered mark and Agro Tech Foods was violating it by using it for Sundrop.

Agro Tech Foods is the Indian subsidiary of ConAgra, which is among the world’s largest food companies.

Marico had contended that the trademarks of ‘low absorb’, ‘Losorb’ and ‘Lo-Sorb’ were registered by it in 2001 and were being used for its products, Saffola and Sweekar. It further submitted that any use by its rival was infringement of its mark.

The company further submitted that it had coined the mark ‘low-absorb’ in January 2001, for products which had the quality of absorbing less oil. The technology involved is based on an additive used in the production of edible oil which retards the foaming of oil during the process of frying and/or cooking.

Opposing the petition, Marico had approached the High Court requesting a directive restraining Agro Tech Foods from using the mark. Agro Tech Foods had opposed the claim and said it was using the word ‘low absorb’ to explain its product. It also opposed Marico’s claim that ‘low absorb’ was its trademark.

This was upheld by the High Court, which rejected the claims of exclusivity and said: “Prima facie, none can monopolise the mark ‘low absorb’”.

“The defendant’s trademark is undoubtedly Sundrop. This apart, having held that the marks ‘low absorb’, ‘Losorb’ and ‘Lo-Sorb’ are prima facie descriptive, with no demonstrable acquired secondary distinctiveness,” the petition was dismissed, said the High Court.

This was challenged by Marico before the Supreme Court, which today dismissed the petition.

Published on March 01, 2011

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