Larsen and Toubro Limited v. Lachmi Narain Trades and Ors.
2008 (36) PTC 223 (Del) (DB)
Appellant (Larsen and Toubro Ltd.) was engaged in diverse business activities, with subsidiaries using the prefix ‘LandT’ for over half a century. It applied for registering the marks ‘Larsen and Toubro’ and ‘LandT’, the applications of which were pending consideration.
Appellant filed a suit for injunction. At the stage of interim relief, the Learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court ordered that the Respondents can use the words ‘LandT’ only in an extended form as – “LNT/ELENTE – Lachmi Narain Traders” – so as to avoid any confusion. The Appellant appealed against the same before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court.
(i) Whether the use of the words ‘LNT/ELENTE’ by the Respondents is bona fide? If the answer is in the negative, can these words become permissible simply by adding the expression ‘Lachmi Narain Traders’?
(ii) Whether the fact that the products of the Respondents are nowhere related to those of the Appellant grant them the right to use a similar trademark?
• Respondents had no other reason to use the abbreviation ‘LNT’ but to capitalise on Appellant’s goodwill.
• ‘LNT’ was the abbreviation of their family business ‘Lachmi Narain Trades’, started in 1952 and running under the said name since 2001.
• ‘LNT’ cannot be said to be similar to ‘LandT’.
• Since the products marketed by the Respondents under the trademark LNT/ELENTE are not even manufactured by the Appellant, there was no justification for restraining the use of the said trademark.
Rationale of decision: The abbreviation ‘LNT’ does not appear to be bona fide because even when the Respondents have been in business for a number of years, they started using the said abbreviation as late as in the year 2001.The trademark ‘LandT’ is identified with the goods marketed by the Appellant and the use of a similar trademark‘LNT’is likely to create confusion.As a result, its use cannot become permissible simply by using it with some other expression like ‘Lachmi Narain Trades’.
Rationale of decision: A passing off action would lie where a wrong impression is created as if the product was of someone else, even if the Respondents were not producing any goods similar to that of the Appellant. Even if the Respondents’ activities are remote, they are likely to be presumed a possible extension of Appellant’s activities by the buyers.
The appeal was allowed and the Respondents were restrained from using the words ‘LNT/ELENTE’. However, the Division Bench allowed the Respondents to use ‘Lachmi Narain Trades’ in its full and extended form only.
Author: Arunima Bishnoi, Delhi Law Faculty