King of Milk products, “Amul” is a well-known trademark now!
Written By: Avasi Mohanty
Every household’s favorite dairy product brand “AMUL” has added another feather to its cap. Going with the direction of Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), mark “Amul” is accorded the status of a well-known trademark in India , sharing platform with the likes of Coca-Cola, Kodak, Nestle and Microsoft. Anand Milk Federation Union Limited (Amul) is a well-established Indian Origin cooperative body engaged in the business of manufacturing, marketing and exporting milk products under the brand name “AMUL” since 1955. As a result of an era old continuous and extensive use of the mark, substantial segment of public now easily associate ‘Amul’ with its significant sphere of trade. This governmental direction will provide unparalleled protection to the mark, restricting its unauthorized use not only for competing products but also for non-competing products.
A well known trademark defined under The Trademarks Act, 1999, can be denoted as a mark that has become so prominent to the substantial segment of the public who uses such goods or receives such services that the use of such mark in relation to other goods or services would be likely to indicate that the dissimilar goods & services are associated with the proprietor of the well-known mark. Certain factors like promotion, uniqueness, demand, recognition, etc incurs trans-border reputation of mark and these are also the parameters which determine if a mark is well known. In India, statutory protection is accorded to a well known mark irrespective of its usage and registration as they are more prone to infringement attacks. Nonetheless, a foreign well known trademark is not granted protection in India if it is not well known in the Indian territory and unless the proprietor establishes trans-border reputation and the likelihood of confusion among target audience.
Amul’s journey into the league of famous marks is not easily achieved. Multiple passing off acts against this brand has been recorded in the past. Although, Amul stood successful in restraining others from using its brand name, most recent was the AMUL-IMUL controversy, wherein Ichhamati Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Limited filed an application for registration of the mark ‘IMUL’ for the similar products marketed by Amul. This case moved to IPAB and was decided ex-parte in favour of Amul. It was held that the impugned mark was phonetically similar to Amul and is likely to cause confusion among consumers. IPAB also maintained that AMUL was a well-known mark and the registration of any deceptively similar mark should be barred. Besides, if a mark is once recognized as well-known by the court, the accorded well-known tag shall prevail for all subsequent proceedings.
Someone wisely said “success comes at its own price”. Here the price being breeding of numerous copycats who unfairly took advantage of a brand’s hard-earned reputation. Unlike ordinary trademarks, the status of a “well known” trademark confers wider protection to the mark. It provides the owner of the mark, an exclusive right to use the trademark against all unlawful users thereof, irrespective of the difference in the field of business, goods or services in the territory. It takes a lot of hard labour, huge cost, stringent market survey and persistent dedication to be crowned as well known trademark. Alas! This task is not so easy. For that reason, legal regulation needs to be more distinct and strictly observed in order to keep unfair usage at bay. In this present case, the decision of the government will act as a shield against those who attempt to garner benefits from Amul’s goodwill.