Delay does not prevent grant of interim injunction, court affirms


In Midas Hygiene Industries P Ltd v Bhatia (Civil Appeal 107/2002), the Indian Supreme Court has affirmed the principle that a plaintiff's delay in bringing a trademark or copyright infringement action cannot, in itself, be used as a defence to the plaintiff's claim for an interim injunction. The court must also consider whether the defendant acted in good faith.

Midas Hygiene Industries became aware in 1992 that Sudhir Bhatia was infringing its trademark LAKSHMANREKHA as well as its copyright in the packaging of the product to which the mark applied. Midas sent Bhatia a cease and desist letter, but did not file a lawsuit until 2002.

A single judge of the Delhi High Court granted Midas an interim injunction at first instance. The judge noted that Bhatia did not have any explanation for adopting a trademark identical to that of Midas or for copying Midas's packaging. The judge found that this proved Bhatia's bad faith. On appeal, a division bench of the Delhi High Court vacated the interim injunction on the basis of delay and laches in instituting the suit, which disentitled Midas to the interim relief.

The Supreme Court restored the interim injunction. It found that delay by itself should not prevent a court from granting an injunction. Rather, an interim injunction must be granted if (i) a trademark (or copyright) was clearly infringed, or (ii) it appears, prima facie, that the adoption of the mark was in itself dishonest.

This ruling is consistent with case law as held by the Delhi High Court in Colgate Palmolive Company v Anchor Health & Beauty Care Pvt Ltd (2003 (2) CTMR 487 (Delhi)) (for background information, see Indian court recognizes trademark rights in colour combinations). The established principle is that:

  • the defence of delay, being an equitable one, will only be allowed when there is inordinate delay and it materially prejudices the defendant's case and tilts the balance of convenience against it;

  • the defendant has to support its defence by proving its good faith; and

  • while not affecting a claim for interim relief, delay could affect claims for damages and accounts for profits at the final stage.

Jyotsna Balakrishnan, Anand & Anand, New Delhi

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