Ravikanth Shinde v. Managing Director, Gujarat Heavy

Name of the CaseRavikanth Shinde v. Managing Director, Gujarat Heavy
Citation[2003] 45 SCL89 (AP)
Year of the Case2003
AppellantRavikanth Shinde
RespondentManaging Director, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Ltd. And Ors.
BenchBilal Nazki and Elipe Dharma Rao, JJ.
Acts InvolvedEmblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, Constitution of India – Article 226.
Important SectionsSection 3 and Section 4 of Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

Abstract

The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, in India is enacted to prevent the use of national symbols for commercial use. There are enterprises, companies, and companies who for the benefit of their businesses, use different trademarks, grant patents according to their choice. But, when a company goes about its selection of a particular trademark, it has to keep in mind certain measures to be followed.

Under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, the companies are prohibited to use certain emblems and names. For example, the names of freedom fighters who had sacrificed their lives for our Country’s independence, should not be used for commercial purposes by the companies to promote their products.

Introduction

In India, there are many companies manufacturing various kinds of commodities and providing services. Also, when a company registers itself, it comes up with its unique symbol or unique word which represents the nature of its business or the goods that it manufactures.

Nowadays, the trademarks have become so identified with a company’s name that one does not have to check the name of the company to recognize the kind of business that it carries out.

Along the lines, in the present case that is, Ravikanth Shinde v. Managing Director, Gujarat Heavy[i], the respondent’s company started a business where it manufactures and sells salt. The trademark that the company had used is “Dandi” with a pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. A petition was filed claiming that the trademark used by the company went against the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

Facts

The Respondent has a company named “Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Limited”. It is involved in activities like manufacturing, stocking, and marketing their products. It manufactures various products including Textiles and Inorganic chemicals.

It has its units established in most of the States in India. The Company is one of the leading Indian producers of soda ash and edible salt. It has salt refineries in many districts of Tamil Nadu.

In the year 2003, the Respondent’s company started manufacturing a new product ‘Kitchen Salt’ under the trademark ‘Dandi’, by representing a picture in the background which creates an impression of Mahatma Gandhi picking up the Salt.

A writ petition was filed before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, claiming that the usage of the term ‘Dandi’ and the pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi, are against the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

Issues Raised

Whether the name Dandi and the pictorial representation on the packets of salt are in contravention to the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950?

Related Provisions

  1. The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 – Section 3
  2. The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 – Section 4

Related Cases

Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Petitioner’s Contentions

The Petitioner contended that the trade-mark, named ‘Dandi’ itself gives an impression that it has some relation with the historical march, during the freedom struggle, began by Mahatma Gandhi, who is known to be the Father of Nation.

He argued that the Dandi March, started by Mahatma Gandhi during the Freedom struggle, has been considered as sacred documentation by the people of India.

He further contended that the trademark used by the respondents in the name of ‘Dandi’ and pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi is against the established provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

The Petitioner had drawn the Court’s attention towards the judgement passed in the case of Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceutical Ltd[ii]. He stated that the Supreme Court had laid down certain principles while deciding the case, considering the whole Law relating to the Trademarks.

Respondent’s Contentions

The counsel on behalf of the respondent contended that the writ petition was made by the petitioner as an instance his business rivals, but not on the account of violation of the provisions under the Act.

The Respondent’s counsel argued that the instant matter is Res Judicata, that is, the case of similar facts has already been decided by a competent Court and it cannot be pursued by the same parties. Hence, the writ petition has no means to be entertained in the Court.

He further contended that a similar writ petition[iii] was filed before the Bombay High Court, wherein the Court dismissed the Petition. And, when an appeal was made in this regard, the Supreme Court also dismissed it by confirming the orders of the Bombay High Court.

He stated that since the matter has already been decided by the Bombay High Court, and the same has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, it cannot be re-agitated again.

Judgement

The Bench has allowed the Writ Petition filed by the Petitioner and ordered the concerned authorities under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, to take necessary steps in accordance with the Act so as to ensure that the name ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ and the term ‘Dandi’ is not used for any commercial purpose.

Ratio Decidendi

A company cannot bear a trademark that goes against the 9A of the Schedule under the Act.The name or pictorial representation of Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj or Mahatma Gandhi or Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, or the Prime Minister of India except for the purpose of pictorial representation on calendars as they are not used for advertising goods.

So, when Section 3 is read with 9A of the schedule under the Act, it becomes clear that the name or pictorial representation of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi cannot be used for any commercial purpose.

Concepts Highlighted

The writ petition was filed by an advocate in the public interest. The Andhra Pradesh High Court on hearing the Contentions from both the parties, ahs has given the judgement in favour of the Petitioner. While deciding the case it has undergone to analyze various principles. Some of the precedents were also taken into consideration.

When the Respondent’s counsel contended that the instant matter is a Res Judicata, the Court went on to say that, the issues under the writ petition that was referred by the respondent, were neither considered by the Bombay High Court nor by the Supreme Court. Both the Courts had not given any reasons with regard to the dismissal of the writ petition and hence the present matter would not be considered as Res Judicata.

Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950

This Act was enacted for the purpose of preventing the improper use of certain emblems and names for commercial purposes. Section 3 and Section 4 of the Act clearly states about the prohibition of improper usage of emblems and names.

According to Section 3 of the Act,

Prohibition of Improper use of Certain Emblems and Names

Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use, or continue to use, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade-mark or design, any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colorable imitation thereof without the previous permission of the Central Government or of such officer of Government as may be authorized in this behalf by the Central Government.

This means no company, or no person is supposed to use any name or any emblem that has been expressed under the Schedule of the Act, for the purpose of promoting their business or for any commercial use. The exception that has been provided under this Section is that when there is a condition where the Central Government prescribes to do so, in that case, a company can use the same.

In the present case, the Respondent is in clear violation of the aforementioned Section. The term ‘Dandi’ used by the Respondent as a trademark, shows that it is enough associated with Mahatma Gandhi, same as how Ahimsa and Sabarmati Ashram are associated with him. And the picture is clear enough to identify that it is Mahatma Gandhi in the Dandi March, during the Freedom Struggle. Considering, all these it can be said that it is indeed violating Section-3 of the Act.

Prohibition of Registration of Certain Companies

  1. Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no competent authority shall-
  2. register any company, firm or other body of persons which bears any name, or
  3. register a trademark or design which bears any emblem or name, or
  4. grant a patent in respect of an invention which bears a title containing any emblem or name, if the use of such name or emblem is in contravention of Section 3.

As mentioned by the Petitioner in the Petition to restrain the respondent’s company from manufacturing, stocking, and marketing their product ‘kitchen salt’, it is also given in the Act that any, the body of persons that contravenes the Section-3 of the Act, has no stand to register itself as a company.

The Court has also looked, into the Judgement passed in the case of Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceutical Ltd. In this case, the Supreme Court has laid down certain principles, regarding the whole Law relating to Trademarks, which were considered to decide the case. This case was not about the interpretation of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, but of the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958. The principles are as follows:

  1. The nature of the trademarks used by the company is wordmarks or composite marks or label marks, or both label and wordmarks.
  2. The Resembleness degree between the trademarks is similar in the idea.
  3. The purpose or the nature of commodities of the company for which the trademarks are used
  4. The degree of similarity, how far the characters of the company’s goods are similar, to that of rival traders
  5. Any other circumstances which might be found relevant to decide the extent of dissimilarity between the competing marks.

It was also stated in the same judgement that the weightage of each of the above factors should be considered according to the facts of the case, and not all factors would apply to any case.

It can be concluded from the above principles that when the facts of a case are being analyzed, the similarities should be taken into consideration rather than the dissimilarities.

The respondents in the instant case are selling salt in the name of Dandi, and Dandi march was associated with redundant Salt laws that were there during the period of British, which means the Dandi march was about the agitation relating to salt. The picture that was used by the respondent’s company only became famous after Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi march, which can be recognized by almost all the citizens of the Country. All these are inter-related to each other in the present case, that means similarities are there in the present case.

Hence, all the required factors mentioned above are satisfied, there is no point in rejecting the writ petition filed by the petitioner.

[i][2003] 45 SCL89 (AP)

[ii] [2001] 2 SCR 743

[iii] W.P. No. 1157 2002, Bombay HC

Questions

Q.1. What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a unique symbol or unique word which represents the nature of its business or the goods that it manufactures. It is a kind of intellectual property of the company. These days the trademarks have become so synonymous that the nature of the products sold by a company can even be identified by having a look at its trademark.

Q.2. What do Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 do?

The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 prevents the improper use of certain names and emblems for business or commercial purposes by the companies.

Q.3. What are the names that cannot be used for commercial purposes according to the Act?

There are a few names mentioned under Schedule 9A of the Act, which is prohibited to be used for commercial purposes. Some of them are Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, or the Prime Minister of India cannot be used for commercial purposes. However, in the case where the Central Government itself proposes to use them on certain conditions, there is an exception to the rule originally established under the Act.

Q.4. What is meant by Res Judicata?

The term “Res Judicata” means, the parties in a case cannot pursue a matter in a certain Court, owing to the fact that, the matter has already been adjudicated by the competent authority.

Q.5. Why is using “Dandi” as a trademark prohibited in this case?

The respondents in the instant case are selling salt in the name of Dandi, and the Dandi march was associated with redundant Salt laws that were there during the period of British, which means the Dandi march was about the agitation relating to salt, started by Mahatma Gandhi. People in India consider it as a sacred documentation, so it cannot be used as a trademark for commercial purposes.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emblems_and_Names_(Prevention_of_improper_use)_Act_1950
  2. https://www.casemine.com/judgement/in/5608f82ce4b0149711141a98
  3. https://www.legalcrystal.com/cases/search/name:state-emblem-of-india-prohibition-of-improper-use-act-section-9/court:andhra-pradesh
  4. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1363509/

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