Caught in a legal tussle over claims of trademark infringement, liquor manufacturer Allied Blenders and Distillers, which sells its whisky brand under Officer’s Choice, has approached the Supreme Court against Bangalore-based John Distilleries’ Original Choice.
Both companies are disputing over the rival marks —ABD’s Officer’s Choice registered in October 1990 and John Distilleries’ Original Choice, which was registered in March 2008 but has allegedly been in use since March 2000.
ABD claims its product under the brand Officer’s Choice has been in the market since 1988, but it became the proprietor of the same in February 2007.
It has challenged the Madras High Court judgment of September 2009 that dismissed its appeal on the ground that anybody who is keen to oppose any such registration has to be vigilant and has to oppose the registration in the prescribed manner, in the prescribed time and on payment of prescribed fee within time.
The high court had noted that the special act provided for specific time, manner and fees and these requirements cannot be relaxed.
Stating that the high court failed to appreciate that the unsigned cheque was merely a bonafide clerical mistake, the petition said ABD had filed a notice of opposition along with an unsigned fee cheque in March 2004 before the Deputy Registrar of Trademarks against impugned trademark Original Choice within the statutory period of three months.
The cheque was later encashed by the Registry in April 2004 after ADB’s counsel presented the duly signed cheque, it said.
However, the Registry had refused the notice of opposition saying that it was time barred, ABD said, adding that the same was rejected not on merits but on procedural grounds.
Even the Intellectual Property Appellate Board and the high court had disallowed its opposition and rejected the company’s contention that the mistake of the unsigned cheque was on part of its counsel for which it should not be made to suffer.