Dairy major Amul of Gujarat has won a trademark dispute with a milk producers’ co-operative union in West Bengal, which sought to market a brand of milk named ‘Imul’.

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has set aside an order of the Registrar of Trademark, Kolkata, registering the trademark ‘Imul’, holding that it is deceptively similar to Amul.

The board comprising Vice-Chairman S. Usha and member V. Ravi said: “The marks are no doubt phonetically similar, except for first letters a and i. When we consider the marks to be deceptively similar, the possibility of confusion is certain. The trademark, therefore, shall not proceed to registration.”

In 2006, after rejecting opposition from the Kaira District Co-Operative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, Anand, the Registrar General of Trademark, Kolkata, allowed the registration of ‘Imul’ as the trademark of the Ichhamati Co-Operative Milk Producers Union Limited in 24 Parganas district.

The Kaira District Co-Operative Union said it was carrying on a well-established business at Anand in Gujarat, manufacturing, marketing and exporting a wide range of items such as milk, diary products and food products under the trademark ‘Amul’ since 1955.

By virtue of its long, extensive and continuous use, ‘Amul’ has become associated and identified by the public with the Anand-based milk producers’ union.

The adoption and use of ‘Imul’ as a trademark would cause confusion and deception among the trade and public. However, the West Bengal milk producers’ co-operative union claimed it had adopted ‘Imul’ as a trademark in 2001.

Ichhamati union

The Registrar ruled in favour of the Ichhamati union, saying its sales turnover had increased periodically and refusing registration would cause unnecessary inconvenience and damage to it.

Aggrieved by the said order, the Kaira union filed the present appeal before the IPAB. Setting aside the Registrar’s order, the IPAB noted that the sales turnover of the West Bengal producers’ union did not support its case.

“The sales turnover is not certified by a chartered accountant. Mere statement of sales turnover in the affidavit cannot be looked into to decide the matter.”

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