This article on ‘Dhruv Rathee Unauthorized Trademark Case: Facts and Laws‘ was written by Mohammed Zaid Alam, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Dhruv Rathee is a popular Indian social media personality, YouTuber, and blogger who has been accused of using trademarks without obtaining prior permission from the owners of those trademarks. Some of the companies whose trademarks were allegedly used by Rathee include Reliance Industries Limited, Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress, and All India Trinamool Congress.
In response to the allegations, Rathee has claimed that the use of trademarks falls under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. However, the use of trademarks without permission is a violation of the Trademarks Act, 1999 in India, and the “fair use” doctrine does not apply to trademarks. This article will discuss the facts and laws related to this matter and explore the potential legal consequences that Rathee may face for his unauthorized use of trademarks.
Allegations levelled against Rathee for the Infringement of Trademark
In ‘Dabur India Limited v. Dhruv Rathee & Ors‘, the allegations made against Dhruv Rathee for infringing trademarks involve his use of logos and trademarks of various companies and political parties without obtaining their prior permission. The companies whose trademarks were allegedly used by Rathee include Reliance Industries Limited, Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress, and All India Trinamool Congress. These companies have sent Rathee legal notices asking him to stop using their trademarks without permission.
Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a trademark that is identical or similar to a registered trademark without obtaining the owner’s permission. In India, the Trademarks Act of 1999 provides legal protection to trademark owners and prohibits others from using their trademarks without permission. The unauthorized use of a trademark can confuse the public and harm the brand reputation of the trademark owner.
In response to the allegations, Rathee has claimed that his use of trademarks falls under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. However, the “fair use” doctrine only applies to copyright law, not trademark law. The use of trademarks without permission can also amount to passing off, which is a common law tort.
Passing off occurs when someone uses the trademark or name of another person or company to deceive the public into believing that their goods or services are associated with the original owner. If found guilty of infringing the trademarks of the respective companies, Rathee may face legal consequences. The Trademarks Act of 1999 provides for both civil and criminal remedies for trademark infringement, including damages, injunctions, and imprisonment.
What the Law says about Infringement of Trademarks under the Trade Marks Act, 1999
The Trademarks Act of 1999 provides for several provisions for the infringement of trademarks. Some of the key provisions are:
- Section 29: This section provides for infringement of registered trademarks. “It states that a person shall be deemed to infringe a registered trademark if he uses a mark that is identical or similar to the registered trademark about goods or services which are identical or similar to those for which the trademark is registered”. This section also covers cases of deceptive similarity.
- Section 30: This section provides for infringement of trademarks with reputation. “It states that a person shall be deemed to infringe a trademark with a reputation if he uses a mark that is identical or similar to the trademark concerning goods or services which are not similar to those for which the trademark is registered, and the use of the mark takes unfair advantage of or is detrimental to the distinctive character or repute of the registered trademark”.
- Section 31: This section provides for infringement by applying the trademark to goods or services. “It states that a person shall be deemed to infringe a registered trademark if he applies the trademark to goods or services that are identical or similar to those for which the trademark is registered”.
- Section 32: This section provides for infringement by importing goods. “It states that a person shall be deemed to infringe a registered trademark if he imports goods that bear a mark identical or deceptively similar to a registered trademark, and such goods are identical or similar to the goods for which the trademark is registered”.
- Section 33: This section provides for the defence of infringement. “It states that infringement of a registered trademark shall not be deemed to occur if the use of the trademark is under honest practices in industrial or commercial matters”.
- Section 135: This section provides criminal remedies for trademark infringement. “It states that a person who knowingly infringes a registered trademark shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with a fine”.
These provisions help protect the rights of trademark owners and provide remedies for infringement.
Important Case Laws on Trademark Infringement
There have been several landmark cases in India related to trademark infringement, which have set important precedents and helped define the legal framework for trademark protection in the country. Here are some of the most notable cases:
- Amul v. Kwality: This case is considered a landmark case in Indian trademark law. In this case, the court held that the plaintiff’s mark, “Amul,” was a well-known trademark and that the defendant’s mark, “Kwality,” was deceptively similar to the plaintiff’s mark, and hence amounted to trademark infringement.
- Bata India Limited v. Chawla Boot House: In this case, the court held that the use of the trademark “Bata” by the defendant amounted to trademark infringement and passing off. The court also held that the defendant’s use of the mark was likely to confuse the minds of consumers and that the plaintiff had established a strong reputation and goodwill in the market.
Possible Outcome of Dhruv Rathee’s Trademark Infringement
Trademark infringement occurs when someone uses a trademark without permission, which can include using a similar mark, using the mark for goods or services that are similar to those covered by the registered trademark, or using the mark in a way that could cause confusion or dilution of the original mark. If Dhruv Rathee is liable for unauthorized use of trademarks, he may face legal consequences such as a court order to stop using the trademark, paying damages to the trademark owner for any losses they incurred as a result of the infringement, and possibly facing criminal charges.
Recently in the case of Dabur India Limited v. Dhruv Rathee & Ors. the Calcutta High Court granted interim relief to the company and directed Rathee to remove offending portions from one of his videos containing “Real Fruit Juice”, a registered trademark product. Justice Ravi Kishan Kapur has observed “Prima facie, at the ad interim stage even though the underlying intent of the impugned video may not be objectionable, in making repeated direct and brazen references to the product Real of the petitioner, the Lakshamanrekha or the Rubicon has been crossed. In my view, the petitioner’s product Real has been specifically targeted, denigrated, and discredited in the impugned video.” It is evident from the above ‘Dhruv Rathee Unauthorized Trademark Case’ that trademark infringement is a clear violation of the Trademark law.
It is important to note that trademark law is complex and the outcome of any particular case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved.
It appears that Dhruv Rathee may have used trademarks without permission, which could potentially make him liable for trademark infringement. The laws regarding trademarks vary by country, but generally, using a trademark without permission can lead to legal action and potential damages for the trademark owner.
It is important to note that trademark law can be complex, and the specific circumstances of each case will need to be evaluated to determine liability. Additionally, any legal action taken against Dhruv Rathee would need to be pursued through the appropriate legal channels.
- The Trade Marks Act, 1999 (Act No. 47 of 1999).
- Passing Off: General overview and protection under the trademark law, available at: https://samistilegal.in/passing-off-general-overview-and-protection-under-the-trademark-law/#:~:text=Section%20135%20of%20the%20Act,infringing%20goods%2C%20labels%2C%20etc. (last visited on March 29, 2023).
- What is Infringement of Trademark, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/what-is-infringement-of-trademark/ (last visited on March 29, 2023).
- Udit Singh, “YouTuber Dhruv Rathee To Remove ‘Targeted’ References To ‘Real Fruit Juice’ From His Video: Calcutta High Court Grants Interim Relief To Dabur” LIVELAW, Mar. 29, 2023.