ITC sues fake apparel makers

New Delhi, Jan 26 | Updated: Jan 27 2005, 05:30am hrs
In a petition filed by ITC Ltd alleging violation of its intellectual property rights, the Delhi High Court has asked Delhi-based units to file their written statements by April 24. Earlier, the court had restrained them from selling, marketing or distributing apparel with trademarks/logos Wills Sport, John Players, ITC or any other deceptively similar trademark or logo. It had also appointed local commissioners to prepare inventory of goods carrying infringing trademarks and logos.

Earlier, Justice Mukundakam Sharma had observed: Adoption of the Wills Sport and John Players and ITC trademarks and logos is apparently with dishonest intention of passing off the defendants products as that of the plaintiff (ITC). The plaintiff has made a good prima facie case for the grant of an ex parte ad interim restraint. Balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff, the court had said.

In its petition, the Rs 13,000 crore-company had stated that its upmarket brands - Wills Sport and John Players - had earned substantial goodwill and reputation in the minds of the trade and public who recognise these for their excellant quality, trendsetting designs and fashion. The trademarks have been cultivated through extensive use under strict quality control, ingenious marketing strategy, advertisement and promotion, ITC said.

According to counsel for ITC Ltd Manmohan Singh, the company has made considerable investment and deployed financial resources in innovative research and design for promoting trademarks in India. It has been using distinctive packaging and labels, he said.

The company came to know about manufacturing and selling of counterfeit Wills Sport and John Players shirts, jeans, trousers and other clothing last year. The defendants have imitated ITCs trademarks in its entirety with dishonest intention to encash upon the goodwill and reputation earned by the company over a period of time. The adoption of an identical trademarks by the defendants amounts to violation of legal rights of the company, Mr Singh had contended.

With its offices at 60 locations and approximately 1.65 lakh shareholders, the company has diversified into agriculture, information technology, hotels, branded apparel, greeting cards, packaged foods and confectionery. It also cliams to be the countrys biggest foreign exchange earners (Rs 7,867 crore in the last decade).