Chennai-based ‘Thalappakattu’ dubbed imitation

As intellectual property disputes go, this one was in real good taste. Two similar-sounding brand names competed for primacy in the biriyani market, and the older one prevailed.

Ending a long-running dispute, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board here has ruled that Dindigul-based ‘Thalappakatti’ is the genuine trademark and that Chennai-based ‘Thalappakattu’ is an imitation.

The Bench comprising its chairman Justice Prabha Sridevan and its member V.Ravi upheld the order passed by Deputy Registrar of Trade Marks in favour of Thalappakatti Naidu Ananda Vilas Biriyani Hotel, Dindigul, and dismissed the applications of Thalapakattu Biriyani and Fast Food, Chennai, for trademark registration.

The dispute arose in the early 2000s. The Deputy Registrar in 2010 allowed the application of the Dindigul restaurant for its registration ‘Thalappakatti’, but refused the claim of Chennai restaurant. The Thalappakatti  Ananda Vilas Biriyani Hotel was the prior and genuine adopter and continuous user of the mark ‘Thalappakatti’. The mark ‘Thalappakattu’ is an imitation and was likely to cause confusion. Aggrieved by this, the Chennai-based restaurateur filed an appeal before the IPAB.

The proprietors of the Dindigul-based mark claimed that way back in 1957, Nagasamy Naidu started the Ananda Vilas Briyani Stall. It later became famous as Thalappakatti Biriyani Naidu Hotel since the turbaned Naidu was called ‘Thalappakatti Naidu’. After him, his son and grandson carried on the business, which expanded to Coimbatore and Tirupur, and acquired a huge reputation because of the quality of its biriyani.

 However, Chennai-based restaurant ‘Thalappakattu Biriyani & Fast Food claimed that its promoters’ ancestor Sulaiman was the Chief of the Horse Regiment in the palace of Raja of Sivaganga. As he wore a turban, his family came to be known as ‘Thalappakattu Rawthers’. They started the hotel business on a small scale in 2005 and as a mark of respect to their ancestors, they adopted the word ‘Thalappakattu’.  According to them, they served extremely delicious biriyani and the adoption of the name was bona fide. 

Dismissing the claim with Rs.20,000 cost, the Bench concluded that in the face of the evidence adduced by the Dindigul’s Thalappakatti, the only conclusion “can be of dishonesty in adoption.” ‘Thalappakattu’ and ‘Thalappakatti’ did not even have any phonetic difference. The last syllable was not stressed.

“In fact, in speech, both will be used interchangeably.  The appellant clearly intended to ride on the respondent’s reputation.”