In the case of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd v. Social 75 [CS(COMM) 597/2022], the Delhi High Court granted an ex-parte ad-interim injunction in favour of the famed restaurant and bar chain ‘SOCIAL’, preventing a Jharkhand-based restaurant ‘SOCIAL 75’ from using its registered brand ‘SOCIAL’.
Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the “Plaintiff”) provides restaurant services, including but not limited to operating and managing restaurants and coffee shops, as well as providing expertise in the provision of food and beverages.
The Plaintiff claimed that it owns and operates several well-known restaurants and coffee shops, including Smoke House Deli, Salt Water Cafe, Le Kebabiere, The Tasting Room, Prithvi Cafe, Flea Bazar, and Social. The Plaintiff began its operations in 2001 and has since opened other restaurants under various names, one of them being ‘SOCIAL.’
The Plaintiff is the registered owner of the trademark “SOCIAL” and its derivatives in a variety of classifications, with over a hundred registrations. Since 2014, the brand name ‘SOCIAL’ has garnered immense popularity across the country and is one of the well-known brands in the food and beverage market.
It came to the knowledge of the Plaintiff that Social 75 (hereinafter referred to as the “Defendant”) is the sole proprietor of a restaurant in Jamshedpur with the trademark ‘SOCIAL 75’. In the backdrop of the foregoing, the Plaintiff sought the present appeal before the Delhi High Court (hereinafter referred to as “High Court”), for infringement of its registered trademark.
ISSUE BEFORE THE HIGH COURT
Whether the Defendant infringed upon the registered trademark of the Plaintiff ?
The Plaintiff contended that the Defendant has duplicated the registered and well-known trademark of the Plaintiff, i.e., ‘SOCIAL.’ Subsequently, the Plaintiff also brought it to the notice of the High Court that the Defendant has used the colour orange for its trademark ‘SOCIAL 75’, which is identical to the colour used by the Plaintiff to represent its registered trademark.
Furthermore, the Plaintiff asserted that the method in which the trademark ‘SOCIAL’ is suffixed with another word, i.e., ’75′, is identical to the Plaintiff’s concept of prefixing the trademark, the only difference being that the Plaintiff prefixes the trademark ‘SOCIAL’ with the name of the region in which the restaurant/bar is located.
The Plaintiff also stated that the Defendant delivers identical services to the same target consumer base as the Plaintiff. Hence, such confusingly similar trademarks would create confusion in the minds of the consumers, thereby leading to irreparable harm to the Plaintiff’s business.
The Plaintiff further alleged that the Plaintiff is a prior user of the registered trademark ‘SOCIAL’ and its derivatives and that the Defendant’s use of the impugned mark would amount to infringement under Section 29 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).
DECISION AND FINDINGS
The Court held that the Plaintiff has established a prima facie case for the grant of an ex parte ad-interim injunction because the impugned trademark is deceptively similar to the Plaintiff’s registered trademark, and the balance of convenience also lies in favour of the Plaintiff. Hence, the Plaintiff is likely to suffer irreparable harm if the injunction, as prayed for, is not granted.
The Court observed that the Defendant, its partners, principals, directors, officers, employees, agents, distributors, suppliers, and all others acting on its behalf are directed to remove all references to the impugned trademark from third-party websites where the Defendant’s goods and/or services are sold, offered for sale, promoted, and/or advertised under the impugned trademark ‘SOCIAL’ and/or any other trademark confusingly similar to the Plaintiff’s trademark.
Trademark is vital in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry considering such trademark certifies the quality and brand reputation of such food or beverage. In the backdrop of the same, the trademark associated with a brand plays a major role in the brand’s reputation in the relevant market.
In the circumstances of trademark infringement, the Courts often observe several factors before granting an ex parte interim relief, as in the present case. Herein, the trademark ‘SOCIAL’ is not only a popular restaurant chain and a well-known trademark in the hospitality industry, but has been in the market for a very long period of time. Any duplication or infringement of the said trademark could lead to grave monetary and reputational loss to the Plaintiff.
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