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Case Analysis: Starbucks Coffee Vs Sardarbuksh Coffee and Co. Ors

Kajal Devi,

Dogra law College

CITATION

CS (COMM) 1007/2018

PETITIONER

Starbucks Coffee

RESPONDENT

Sardarbuksh Coffee and Co. Ors

NAME OF THE COURT

Delhi High Court

DATE OF THE JUDGEMENT

01 August, 2018

BENCH

Justice Man Mohan

Case overview: 

In India, Starbucks filed an application for trademarks in 2001 to use the word mark "STARBUCKS" and the related logo. The logo of Starbucks depicted a "crowned maiden  with long hair". In 2015, the defendant named their enterprise Sardarbuksh Coffee and Co. In the Sardarbuksh logo, a turbaned commander's face was surrounded by a black circle and had wavy lines on either side. The Plaintiff demanded that the Defendants change their logo in a letter that they sent in 2017. In response, the defendant just changed the colour scheme to black and yellow and kept working. Beginning in May 2018, the Defendant began conducting business under the same name. Both the Defendant and the Plaintiff offer similar products and services. The plaintiff filed a complaint against SardarBuksh in the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi as the result of the entire beforehand chain of events. Due to the defendants' mark being illogically similar to the plaintiffs' trademark, the plaintiffs launched an action against them. The plaintiff filed a case against the defendants for infringing. In an action for trademark infringement, the plaintiff accused the defendants of using a falsely identical logo. The main issue that needed to be answered was whether the defendant's logo and the plaintiff's brand name pronunciation were comparable.

Background of the case:  

Both Starbucks Corporation and Sardarbuksh Coffee & Company are parties to this case. Starbucks is the one who filed the legal action, and Sardarbuksh will be the one to defend themself . Starbucks is a well-known international network of coffee shops that is known for the caliber of its coffee. 2015 saw the opening of yet another coffee shop chain with numerous locations in Delhi. Sardarbuksh is the name given to it.

Starbucks is well-known throughout the world, and the business has successfully protected both its name and its logo through copyright. It is a well-known company, and its emblem features a virgin with green hair and a crown. The person shown on the Sardarbuksh symbol is wearing a turban and has curved lines coming out of his sides. As a result, Starbucks' logo and Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co.'s seem quite similar.

There are a few more parallels, such as the shared colour scheme used by the woman in the Starbucks logo and the man wearing a turban in the Sardarbuksh design. These symbols have a round shape. As a result, when we compare the logos side by side, we discover a striking similarity in the overall design as well as the form and colour of the logos. Additionally, both coffee businesses' names have a similar cadence to them. It is important to draw attention to the fact that both the plaintiff and the defendant offer goods and services with eerily similar features.

The defendants altered their trademark accordingly after receiving a letter of demand from Starbucks Corporation in 2017, including changing to a black and yellow colour scheme. They then began conducting their business while utilizing the new arrangement. After then, Starbucks complained to the Delhi High Court about Sardarbuksh's use of the word mark "Sardarbuksh," which is quite similar to"Starbucks." Starbucks brought the lawsuit because it thought Sardarbuksh was violating its trademark.

Although the defendants have been instructed to choose new branding for their future locations, the five current locations will continue to operate normally until the Delhi High Court issues its final ruling. To better reflect their increased commercial operations, the defendants renamed Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. to Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co.

The parties met on September 27, 2018, to go over the agreement's terms and conditions, and a copy of those terms and conditions was given to the High Court of Delhi. It was also specified and agreed that if a third party used the term "Bakhsh," the defendant would have the right to sue the offender in question. It was also determined that the defendant would rename all its locations "Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co." According to these terms, the legal matter was settled, and the settlement was complete.

Legal Issues: 

If the Plaintiff's and the Defendant's marks are confusingly similar, which is which? The key issues that are raised:

  • Both the logos are round in shape.

  • The word mark of both the entities sounds a bit similar.

  • Both the entities provide almost the same goods and services.

  • Both the logos are almost same, in Starbuck's logo there is a crowned maiden with long hair in green colour and Sardarbuksh's logo has a turbaned man with wavy lines extending from the sides.

Laws:

Section 2(1)(h) of Section 11 of the Trademarks Act, 1999.

Analysis: The Court established several measures to establish misleading likeness, including the likelihood and confusion, goodwill, and other tests, after citing earlier decisions.

They cited the decision in National Sewing Thread Co. Ltd. vs. James Chadwick and Bros AIR 1953 SC 357, which stated that determining a misleading resemblance required placing oneself in the customer's position and assuming that he is a man of average intelligence. The two brands may be regarded as being deceptively similar if the buyer has trouble telling the two apart.

The plaintiff was granted a favourable judgment by the court. It ordered that the enterprise's name be changed from "Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co." to "Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co." Twenty of the defendant's stores were impacted by the order, all of which remained closed at the time. However, the Court approved the use of the name "Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co." for two already open locations.

The defendant agreed on September 27, 2018, and changed the names of all its locations to "SardarjiBakhsh Coffee & Co." In addition, it was decided that the defendant would have the right to launch a legal action against any violation if a third party were to use the term "Bakhsh". Thus, the case at hand was resolved.

Observation: 

The court basically stated that it is crucial and fundamental to recognize the significance of trademarks. It offers the company a distinctive personality and sets it apart. The most important attribute is the goodwill built up over time. The most crucial thing to consider in this situation is if the trademark is similar to another and whether it can have an impact on the company whose trademark has been violated.

Conclusion: 

In this instance, it has been stated that a trademark's basic significance is that it serves as a unique element of identity and distinction for both the target company and its customers. The image that a trademark develops throughout the course of its use is its most important feature. The landmark case "Starbucks Coffee v. Sardarbuksh Coffee" highlighted important principles about when it is appropriate to assert that two trademarks are confusingly similar and the potential implications for the company whose trademark has been violated.

References:

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