The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has held as invalid a Mumbai-based firm’s claim over the trademark ‘Maggi’, a world-famous brand name that has been popularised by Swiss firm Nestle. The orders passed by a bench comprising Vice Chairperson S Usha and Technical Member V Ravi held that the firm had not achieved the burden of establishing proprietorship, usage and reasons for adoption of a trademark. It has also not proven that such adoption wouldn’t cause confusion and deception in case the mark is already in vogue in another class of goods.
The case pertains to an application filed by Switzerland-based Societe Des Produits Nestle against Mumbai’s Swaraj Industrial and Domestic Appliances.
The Mumbai firm had, in 1990, applied for the trademark Maggi under four classes of goods, including home appliances like mixers and grinders.
This application was opposed by Nestle before the Senior Examiner of Trademarks. The Swiss firm argued that the term ‘Maggi’ was not a word in the dictionary and was derived from the surname of the company’s founder Julius Maggi. The word usually connotes the goods that Nestle produced, the company further said.
It went on to explain that products under the name ‘Maggi’ had been sold in several worldwide markets since 1887. The brand has even been listed as a superbrand by some journals. In India, Maggi products have been sold since 1974 and crores of rupees have been spent every year in promoting the brand, the company said. However, the examiner overlooked all such facts and shot down Nestle’s opposition on the ground that it was not firm in its claim.
The examiner also held as valid the Mumbai firm’s argument that confusion wouldn’t arise among consumers since the trademark was being used for a different class of goods.
Nestle then preferred an application with the IPAB against the order of the Examiner.
The Mumbai firm also argued that it had been using the name ‘Maggi’ since 1984 and its goods had acquired distinctiveness. The trademark had been in use by many others for various goods and was not confined to that of Nestle’s products alone, the firm said.
After evaluating arguments from both sides, the bench held that the Mumbai firm had given no explanation for the adoption of the mark and it could not be held as honest. The goods for which the Mumbai firm had claimed the trademark was indeed “allied and cognate”.
“The appellant’s goods under the trademark Maggi are food and snack items that are purchased by common man. The household goods of the respondents would make the common man to think that the goods emanates from the respondent’s source,” the bench observed.