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Starbucks Corporation v. Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co.

This article is written by Shatakshi Khadke of B.Sc. Forensic Science 2nd Year studying at National Forensic Sciences University during her internship at LeDroit India.

Citation: CS (COMM) 1007/2018

Bench: Justice Manmohan

Court: Delhi High Court

Plaintiff: Starbucks 

Defendant: Sardarbuksh 

Facts:

Starbucks is a well-known coffee shop with locations throughout several nations that is well-known for its coffee. In addition, Sardarbuksh is a multi-location coffee shop that opened in Delhi in 2015. In 2001, Starbucks, the plaintiff, filed for trademark registration in India for their word mark “STARBUCKS” and related logo. Starbucks is well-known throughout the world and has both its name and emblem registered. Its logo, which features a green-haired, crowned woman, is a well-known brand. The defendants founded Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. in 2015 as their business. The turbaned guy in Sardarbuksh’ s emblem has wavy lines coming out of the sides. Because of this, the logo for Sardarbuksh Coffee and Co. resembles Starbucks’ logo quite a little. Numerous more parallels can be seen, such the identical color of the turbaned guy in the Sardarbuksh emblem and the crowned lady in the Starbucks image. The two logos have a circular design. Thus, upon comparison, the logos exhibit striking similarities in terms of appearance, form, and color. In addition, the names of the two coffee shops have a striking similarity. It’s also important to remember that the plaintiffs and defendants offer the same products and services. Via a letter of demand, the Plaintiff requested in 2017 that the Defendants alter this logo. The defendant just altered the color scheme to black and yellow in response, then carried on with business. In May 2018, the Defendant commenced business operations under the same name. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Sardarbuksh in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as the result of the entire preceding series of events. The defendants were sued by the plaintiffs for trademark infringement caused by a confusingly similar mark.

Issues Involved:

Is there a possibility that the Defendant’s mark is confusingly similar to the Plaintiff’s?
Nevertheless, the defendants were sued by Starbucks Corporation for utilizing the trade name “Sardarbuksh.” In 20 stores that have not yet opened, the defendants were ordered by the Delhi High Court to change their store name from “Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co.” to “Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co.” The court allowed them to keep using the current name for their two operating stores, “Sardarbakhsh Coffee & Co.” Starbucks initiated the lawsuit because it thought Sardarbuksh was violating its trademark.
While the defendants have been instructed to choose new branding for their potential locations, the five existing stores will carry on as usual until the Delhi High Court renders a final decision.

Analysis:

The Court established a number of standards to demonstrate misleading likeness, including the tests of likelihood and confusion, goodwill, and so on, after citing earlier rulings. They cited National Sewing Thread Co. Ltd. vs. James Chadwick and Bros. AIR 1953 SC 357, where it was decided that putting oneself in the customer’s shoes and assuming he is a man of average intelligence was the only way to identify false likeness. They may be considered misleadingly similar if the consumer has trouble telling the two brands apart. The plaintiff was granted a favorable ruling by the court. It directed that the company name be changed from Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. to Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co. against the defendants. Twenty of the defendant’s stores, all of which had not yet opened, were subject to the injunction. Nonetheless, the Court approved the use of the name “Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co.” for the two already-open locations.
The defendant finally gave in on September 27, 2018, and renamed all of its locations “Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co.” Additionally, it was decided that the defendant would have the legal right to sue anyone who used the term “Bakhsh” without permission. Thus, the current lawsuit was resolved.

Judgment:

In a way, the submission of trademark applications was encouraged by this ruling. A trademark cannot be utilized in this manner because it is not permitted to make a mark that is confusingly similar to another mark and then use it for personal financial advantage, to harm the reputation of a registered brand, or to harm the owner of the trademark if it is registered. Furthermore, anyone attempting to carry out such an activity will be subject to the legal consequences.

Conclusion:

The core and importance of trademarks were underlined, emphasizing their function as distinctive markers essential to customer awareness and building long-term goodwill for companies. The seminal case of “Starbucks Coffee” vs “Sardarbuksh Coffee” highlighted the consequences of trademark infringement on affected companies and provided essential guidelines for determining if two trademarks are misleadingly similar. As a type of intellectual property, a trademark can take many different forms, including words, phrases, logos, or names that are used to identify one company’s products or services from another. Thanks to its legal protection, the owner of a trademark can stop others from using it or marks that are confusingly similar to it. This is known as trademark infringement, and it can have serious legal repercussions. Because of their positive reputation and goodwill, trademarks must be protected from exploitation, misuse, and infringement. The previously listed legal precedents demonstrate how open the courts are to interpreting the law in a way that advances consumer interests, protects corporate rights, and advances justice. When it comes to situations similar to these, these instances increase confidence in the legal system and uphold the integrity of trademark protection and fair competition in the market.

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