‘Amul’ brand being misused; will fight registries allowing this: R S Sodhi

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Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) has moved the Gujarat High Court against five registries across the country for allowing other companies to use ‘Amul’, an acronym for Anand Milk Union Ltd, and the brand name for all the products it markets. In a quick chat with Sohini Das over phone, GCMMF Managing Director R S Sodhi explained his stand on the court case. Edited Excerpts:

What is your take on brands using the Amul brand for non-dairy products? 

This is a case of trademark infringement. A trademark office in any region cannot allow a company to copy a well-known and well-recognised brand name for launching products in another category. Amul is a well-known brand and several companies, from tractor manufacturers to undergarment makers, have been using it for their products. This is a quick way to gain a brand recall. We have been fighting such cases for long. Now, a case has been filed in the Gujarat High Court against the registries in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Ahmedabad that have allowed the registration of Amul or other similar-sounding names as their trademarks.

What will be the implication of the verdict in this trademark case for all those that have been using the Amul brand name?

I think there would be far-reaching implication of this case. It is not just one company; there have been cases of biscuit makers to underwear manufacturers freely using the Amul brand. Amul is a “well known brand”, and that is not just a simple term. The Controller-General of Patents Design & Trademarks, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, had in a notification approved Amul as a ‘well-known brand’ and included it in a special list of 68 sometime last year. That basically means that no other product can be named Amul. Meanwhile, we have been fighting cases against the companies that have been using the brand to their advantage. It is about time we took the fight to the registry offices responsible for allowing such companies to use the Amul brand. 

Which regions account for the highest number of cases of trademark violation?

It is usually in the regions where the Amul brand is more famous and a household name. As such, the north and west zones, particularly the latter, account for the most number of cases.

Do you see a long battle ahead of you in this case as litigation never seem to end? 

See, the high court has clearly directed the trademark offices not to allow any company to use the Amul brand until this case ends. As for the trademark offices, it might be a case of ignorance or lack of understanding of what a ‘well-known brand’ is, and the legal significance it holds. But, yes, we need to put an end to this misuse of the Amul brand.

What are the responses of companies on such cases of trademark violation? 

These cases affect the image of Amul as a holistic brand. We write to the companies concerned whenever such a case of violation comes to our notice. Almost 50 per cent of the time, the companies voluntarily withdraw the Amul name from their product. In the cases where they either do not respond or continue using the Amul brand, we move court.

Source: Business Standard. 

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