Yet another trademark triumph for Pepsico’s Aquafina
Pepsico India Holdings Pvt Ltd has won yet another trademark battle, this time in respect of its mineral water brand “Aquafina.” The Delhi High Court, in a recent judgement, upholding the submissions of Pepsico, has restrained the defendant Aqua Mineral (India) from using the trademark “Aquafine” for infringement of Pepsico’s trademark rights in the mark “Aquafina.” Pepsico has naturally banked upon the well-known status attained by the mark “Aquafina,” not to mention its (alleged) long term usage since 1999 and registrations obtained for the mark. Consequently, the Delhi High Court has granted a permanent injunction restraining use of the mark “Aquafine” apart from awarding damages to the tune of Rs. 5 Lakhs.
Pepsico’s endeavors to protect its trademarks’ rights are widely known and this injunction is not the first of its kind, as far as “Aquafina” is concerned. Interestingly the same Delhi High Court had confirmed an injunction against yet another deceptively similar “Aquafine” mark in 2011. This mark, which belonged to M/S Pure Water Beverages was restrained from being used owing to its deceptive similarity to “Aquafina” and resultant infringement of Pepsico’s trademark rights. Following this, while doing a basic search in the online records of the Indian Trademark Office for “Aquafina,” I stumbled upon the “Aquafine” mark of M/S Pure Water Beverages. Interestingly the status of the mark is ‘registered’ and more notable is the fact that applications for renewal appear to have been made by Pepsico(though I could not find any documents evidencing assignment save for one line to the effect in the renewal application).
Now getting back to Aquafina itself, a search in class 32 showed that Pepsico has at least 8 “Aquafina” marks (word, label all put together) out of which, one label mark seems withdrawn. Another interesting fact is that Pepsico has applied for registration of the Aquafina bottle with label as a 3-Dimensional mark and this application is currently objected. I did wonder if the shape of the bottle was so unique and then decided it was it was best left to the Indian Trademark Office to brood upon. Interestingly, I did find a few more marks comprising of the term “Aquafine,” most either refused/abandoned but a few still pending(I even found an abandoned ‘Aquafina’ mark in the name of a third party applied in 2001!)
Though “Aqua” (meaning water, as most will know) per se is quite generic, the prefix or suffix accompanying it, seems to be the focal point and on the face of it, “Aquafine” can, by no means, be considered distinct from “Aquafina” (toss in the cardinal trademark principles of judging from the viewpoint of a “man of average intelligence and imperfect recollection”). All said and done, I’m sure we will be seeing many more trademark battles as those reported above, considering the well-known status of the mark “Aquafina,” which of course proved to be the cause for the undoing of the “Aquafine” marks.