Author: Nayantara Malhotra
In the matter of H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB and Ors. v. HM Megabrands Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. [CS (Comm.) No. 707/2016], the Plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction restraining the alleged infringement and passing off of their registered trademarks and H&M by the Defendants’ use of , HM MEGABRANDS and HM. Both parties’ use of the marks was with respect to retail of clothing and accessories through physical and online stores. The Plaintiff’s application for interim relief was being taken up by the Court.
The Defendants pleaded that the name HM Megabrands was derived from the first two alphabets of the names of Hashim Merchant (Defendant No. 4) and his brother Hamza Merchant (Defendant No. 3) back in 2011, at which time the Plaintiffs had ‘no recognition in India’. The Defendants also argued that though the alphabets ‘H’ and ‘M’ in the two respective sets of marks were the same, the Defendant’s addition of ‘MEGABRANDS’ distinguished the marks from one other.
In its May 31, 2018 decision, while granting the Plaintiff interim relief, the Court observed “The defendants…did not choose to set up or carry on business in their own names but claim to have chosen the first alphabets of their name and surname…It is also not as if the defendants initially set up business under their full names…and which businesses over a period of time came to be known as ‘HM’.”
Noting that the word Megabrands is “…a descriptive and a generic word…used generally to describe any big or successful brand”, and that the Defendants had “…not disputed…that the plaintiffs were in the market from at least over two decades prior to the defendants coming into the market”, the Court took the view that “…‘Megabrands’…rather than distinguishing, reinforces the impression in the mind of the consumer that the business of the defendants is the business of the plaintiffs which vis a vis the defendants at least was a megabrand on the date when the defendants commenced business.”
The Court further observed that “The only other distinguishing feature is the symbol ‘&’ between the alphabets ‘H&M’ in the mark of the plaintiffs… Not only is the symbol ‘&’ in the mark of the plaintiff written in a much smaller font than the font in which the alphabets ‘H&M’ are written but even otherwise a mere presence of the said symbol, in my view, is unlikely to distinguish the said alphabets in the mark of the plaintiffs and in the mark of the defendants.”
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