IPBA restricts Nirma from using trademark for metal products business

Criticising the company’s “excessive monopolistic” attitude, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has refused permission to the Gujarat-based soap manufacturing brand Nirma to use its trademark for the proposed metal products. They were, however, allowed to use the Nirma trademark for its other products including industrial goods.

The Mumbai-based metal instruments manufacturer Nirmal Industrial Controls had earlier applied for the registration of the trademark ‘Nirmal’, and it was rejected by the Registrar of Trademarks as it was opposed by Nirma Chemicals on the ground of being “deceptive similar” with registered trademark ‘Nirma’. The above order was passed recently in response to a lawsuit filed by Nirmal Industrial Controls Pvt Ltd, after its registration of the trademark was rejected.

Nirmal Industrial Controls submitted in its petition that it has been using Nirmal since 1973; whereas Nirma got the ‘proposed mark’, for its proposed metal products when it applied in 1984. Nirmal Industrial sought removal of Nirma’s ‘proposed mark’.

Nirma claimed that the trademark was registered across 42 product categories, including metal products under a specific class of the Copyright Act. Besides, it was also planning to diversify into some metal products, and registered the Nirma trademark.

The IPAB Vice-Chairman S. Usha and Technical Member V. Ravi said in the order issued that the particular Registrar had erred as the documents submitted by Nirma do not show proof of use of Nirma trademark by the company for any metal products for which Nirmal Industrial seeks the trademark.

“Everybody knows that Nirma is very powerful and a superstar brand. But the conduct of the respondent presents excessive monopolistic problems based on an absolutist position taken by the registry.” The order also remarked that such a ruling by the Registrar cast doubt on the conduct and knowledge of the concerned officials.

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