We’re all in this together; partners by estoppel – Whatman International Limited v/s P Mehta & Ors.
Facts of the case
The plaintiff company, founded in 1740, is involved in the manufacture and sale of various products, including filter paper, having trademark WHATMAN registered in India, consisting of a distinctive white background with a blue script.
The plaintiff filed a suit seeking a permanent injunction and punitive damages against the defendants for allegedly infringing the plaintiff’s rights by using a similar color combination and get-up for selling their filter papers. The defendants sold the filter papers under the trademarks- ‘HIRAL,’ ‘ACHME,’ ‘LABSMAN,” UCHEM’ and ‘SUN.’ Contentions were made by the plaintiff as against the defendants, citing instances of sheer contempt of court orders and the undertakings given by them before this case. Further, during the four visits by Local Commissioners to registered places of the defendants, they seized various packages bearing the plaintiff’s trademarks and other above-mentioned impugned marks.
Even though the defendants claimed running independent businesses and not being connected to the plaintiff, their testimonies and presence during the law commissioners’ visits at each other’s premises validated the plaintiff’s claims. Under these findings and evidence, along with a series of heated arguments and blatant denials, the plaintiff pleaded for permanent injunction and punitive damages against the defendants.
Comparison of the afore-mentioned marks
Quantities seized by the local commissioners
|1||WHATMAN packed products and packaging material||8182 units of different sizes|
|2||HIRAL packed products and packaging material||2646 units of different sizes|
|3||ACHME packed products and packaging material||1293 units of different sizes|
|4||RELIGLAS packaging material||79 units|
Decision of the Court
- Defendant nos. 1 to 5 and defendant no. 7 were held guilty of contempt.
- The plaintiff was awarded the following to be paid by the following defendants within a period of three months from the date of pronouncement of the judgement damages worth rupees 1 crore as against 3 defendants, damages worth Rs. 25 lakhs as against 3 defendants and damages worth Rs. 10 lakh as against one defendant.
- Along with this, permanent injunction was also passed against all the defendants.
Detailed list of the plaintiffs and the defendants:
- Plaintiff- Whatman International Limited (founded in 1740; owner of trademark WHATMAN; acquired by GE Healthcare in February 2008.
- Defendant no.1- Mr Paresh Mehta (runs a firm named Hiral International)
- Defendant no.2- Mr Bharat Patel (Brother-in-law of defendant no.1)
- Defendant no.3- Mr Mohit Mehta (Son of defendant no.1)
- Defendant no.4- Mr Jatin Parekh (relative of defendant no.1; owner of ‘Nimisha Trading Company’ and ‘Vidhi Traders’)
- Defendant no.5- Mr Rajesh Patel (brother of defendant no.2; relative of defendant no.1)
- Defendant no.6- Wilson (trading as Delcia Printers; unrelated to all other defendants)
- Defendant no.7- M/s. Shri Maruti Chem. Enterprise Pvt. Ltd. (promoted by wife and son of defendant no.1- Mrs Jagruti P. Mehta and Mr Mohit Mehta)
- Defendant no.8- Sanghvi Scientific Corporation (proprietor- Mr. Ketan Ramniklal Sanghvi; purchased filter papers from M/s. M.K. Corporation run by defendant no.5)
Report of the Local Commissioners
1. Hiral International- Mumbai-seized inventory of products bearing the marks HIRAL, WHATMAN, RELIGLAS and ACHME in the colour scheme of blue and white similar to the plaintiff’s, in the presence of Defendants no. 1 and 2 who also signed the superdarinama.
2. Premises of defendant no. 6– seized WHATMAN product packaging.
3. Premises of defendant no.2– Borivali West– seizure of large amount of filter paper bearing the marks WHATMAN and SCHILEICHER & SCHUELL in the presence of defendant no.5
4. Second premises of defendant no.6- a packaging unit owned by Mr Brijesh Rai- commissioner prepared an inventory of WHATMAN packaging of two variants- WHATMAN-40 and WHATMAN-41 filter papers. Owner also signed superdarinama.
Author: Taru Singhal, student of Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi
Disclaimer: This brief is intended to provide general guidance to the subject matter. It does not contain legal advice. For any specific advice/corrections, write to [email protected]
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