Starbucks vs Sardarbuksh

I am sure most of the you must have visited the famous coffee shop Starbucks , some may  have even clicked pics of the coffee cup and posted it on their Instagram. Even some may have visited & then came back only to realize that the price of a coffee is too much !  I was  sipping cold coffee in my balcony one fine evening and scrolling through my Instagram feeds when I noticed something very funny. What I noticed was that a local coffee company in Delhi had opened five outlets in the name of ‘Sardarbuksh’ which sounded very similar to ‘Starbucks’. 

As Starbucks is a globally recognized trademark registered across borders it seemed that Sardarbuksh was in legal trouble. ‘Starbucks’ is already a well known trademark with its logo depicting a “crowned maiden with long hair” in India since 2001. On the other hand, the defendants who had started their business as late as 2015 decided to name it ‘Sardarbuksh’ with the Hindi word ‘Sardar’ & ‘Buksh’ which means commander and pardon respectively. The defendants used the logo depicting a “turbaned Commander with wavy lines extending from the sides” and also reversing the colour scheme of Starbucks. It is to be noted here that the goods and services provided by both the plaintiff and the defendants are identical. However, the defendants had to modify their logo  and colour scheme to black & yellow in 2017 when Starbucks filed a case against Sardarbuksh for deceptively similar mark.

According to section 2(1)(h) read with section 11 of the Trademark Act, 1999, deceptively similar means a mark which so nearly resembles that the other mark is likely to deceive or cause confusion. Further, the fact that both the parties are dealing in same kind of trade and offering same services to its customers, also plays an important role.  In deciding the question of deception and confusion it should not be overlooked at the fact that the purchaser/buyer/customer might or might not be a literate. According to the court, the defendant had knowledge about the reputation of Starbucks and may be that is the reason they wanted to open a similar type of business to earn money and fame. On 1st August, 2018, the defendants lost the case and as ordered by the said court, they had to modify their name to ‘Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co’ from ‘Sardarbuksh coffee & co’. The case finally closed after the defendant company was allowed to sue a third party who would use the name “Bakhsh” in their branding.

Starbucks takes its brand name protection very seriously. It had once served notice on a British Columbia restaurant in Canada because it was called ‘HaidaBucks’ and took a Texan bar owner to court for selling a beer named ‘Star Bock.’ While another coffee shop owner in the state of Oregon in the US was sued by the coffee giant for calling the outlet ‘Sambucks[1]’. 

CONCLUSION

Judiciary has taken a keen interest in matters of Intellectual Properties and several principles and guidelines have been provided through various judicial decisions in order to make adjudication of cases of trademark infringement much smooth. The court has also looked after the problems which may arise if a strict criteria is made for determination of deceptive similarities. It is evident from the cases above that the courts are going beyond the literal meanings of the legislations to provide justice and safeguarding the rights of the traders and protecting the interests of the consumers[2].


[1] AVNEET ARORA -Starbucks sues India’s SardarBuksh for copycat brand name and logo, https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/starbucks-sues-india-s-sardarbuksh-for-copycat-brand-name-and-logo , visited on 11-06-2021 at 19:09hrs.

[2] Sonal Sodhani -India: Deceptive Similarity And Judicial View, https://www.mondaq.com/india/trademark/784380/deceptive-similarity-and-judicial-view visited on 11-06-2021 at 18:54hrs.

Image Source : Healthline

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