Coke Wins in Landmark Indian Trademark Case

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Oct. 22 – The Delhi High Court has asked the Indian conglomerate Bisleri International to halt the sale of their mango-flavored soft drink under the trade name Maaza in India, giving Coca-Cola a victory in a trademark case.

The issue has been fought for more than a year now with the Delhi High Court allowing the interim injunction in the matter, passed in 2008, to become absolute in favor of Coca-Cola.

As reported in the Hindu Business Line, Bisleri International accused Coca-Cola of infringing intellectual property right (IPR) agreements dating back to 1993 and 1994.

The company challenged Coca-Cola’s move to register the Maaza trademark outside India and sent a legal notice to the company, its affiliates and franchisees to stop the production of Maaza.

Bisleri’s contention was that Maaza was sold to Coca-Cola for distribution and sale only within India and that the licensee (Bisleri) was the registered proprietor of the trademark outside the country. The Coca-Cola Company however, claimed to be the absolute owner of the formulations and knowhow in India through a transfer of knowhow agreement with Aqua Minerals and a confidentiality agreement with Golden Agro, a sister concern of Bisleri which was engaged in manufacturing the drink.

Last year, the Delhi High Court rules in favor of Coca-Cola but restrained the company and its associates from using the trademark Maaza or any other deceptively similar trademark in relation to non-alcoholic beverages, syrups and other preparations till a final hearing.

“The court was pleased to dismiss Bisleri’s application for vacation of the ex-parte interim injunction against use of the Maaza trademark in India including the use for purposes of export from India as well as their application for rejection of the suit on the grounds that the Delhi High Court lacked the requisite jurisdiction,” Anuradha Salhotra, a partner at Lall Lahiri & Salhotra, who represented Coca-Cola, told Business Line.

The case has been keenly followed by the international business and legal community to assess the impartiality of Indian courts in IPR matters.