K. R. Chinna Krishna Chettiar Vs. Sri
Ambal & Co., Madras & ANR  INSC 110 (14 April 1969)
14/04/1969 BACHAWAT, R.S.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 146 1970 SCR (1) 290 1969
SCC (2) 131
Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958, ss.
2(j) and 12-Trademarks when deceptively similar-'Sri Andal' and 'Sri Ambal'
though names of two different goddesses are deceptively similar in sound within
meaning of s. 12(1)-Visual dissimilarity not decisive when sounds deceptively
The appellant was the sole proprietor of a
concern known as Radha & Co. The respondents Ambal & Co. were a
partnership concern. The respondents as also the appellant were manufacturers
and dealers in snuff, carrying on business at Madras and having business
activities inside and outside the State of Madras. In 1958 the appellant sought
registration of a trade mark consisting of a label with a picture of the
goddess Sri Andal and the legand 'Sri Andal' in the central panel, and the
words 'Sri Andal Madras Snuff' in various languages in the upper and lower
panels. The appellant's application was objected to by the respondents on the
ground that it was deceptively similar to their registered trademarks. One of
these consisted of a label containing a device of goddess Sri Ambal in the
centre with the legand 'Sri Ambal parimala snuff' at the top of the label and
the name 'Sri Ambal & Co. Madras' at the bottom. The other trade mark
consisted of the expression 'Sri Ambal'. The Registrar of Trade Marks held that
the sound of 'Ambal' did not so nearly resemble the sound of 'Andal' in spite
of certain letters being common to both the marks as to be likely to cause
confusion or deception among a substantial number of persons. A Single Judge of
the High Court and the Divisional Bench however took the opposite view
whereupon the appellant came to this Court. No plea of honest concurrent use
-within the meaning of s. 12(2) of the Act could be raised in view of the
concurrent finding in this respect by the Registrar as well as the two courts
HELD : (i) The Registrar had expert knowledge
and his decision should not be lightly disturbed. But both the courts had found
that he was clearly wrong and that there was deceptive similarity between the
two marks. In an appeal under Art. 136 of the Constitution the onus was upon
the appellant to show that the concurrent finding of the courts below was
erroneous and that the conditions of s.
12(1) had been satisfied [293 F] (ii) The
question in issue was whether if the appellant's mark was used in a normal and
fair manner in connection with the snuff and if similarly fair and normal user
was assumed of the existing registered marks, will there be such a likelihood
of deception that the mark ought not to be allowed to be registered ? The court
had to decide the question on a comparison of the competing marks as a whole
and their distinctive and essential features. [293 H-294 B] So considered there
could be no doubt that the word 'Ambal' was the distinguishing feature of the
trade mark of the respondent and the word 'Andal' was the distinguishing
feature of the appellant's trade mark. There is a striking similarity and
affinity of sound between the words 'Andal' 291 and 'Ambal' Giving due weight
to the judgment of the Registrar and bearing in mind the conclusions of the
Single Judge and the Divisional Bench it must be held that there was real
danger of confusion between the two marks, [294 B- C] (iii) There was no visual
resemblance between the two marks but ocular comparison is not always the
The resemblance between the two marks must be
considered with reference to the ear as well as the eye. [294 D] (iv) The
argument that on account of the different ideas 'conveyed by the words 'Ambal'
and 'Andal' the accidental phonetic resemblance' could not lead to confusion
was not acceptable because it lost sight of the realities of the case. The
Hindus in the South of India may be well aware that the words Ambal and Andal
represent the names of two distinct goddesses. But the respondent's customers
were not confined to the Hindus of the South of India alone and they were not
likely to remember the fine distinctions between a Vaishnavite goddess and a
The appeal, accordingly, must be disallowed.
[295 B-F] [295 H] In the matter of
Broadhead's Application, (1950) 57 R.P.C.
209, 214, Coca Cola Co. of Canada, v. Pepsi
Cola Co. of Canada Ltd. (1942) 59 R.P.C. 127, De Cordova & Ors. v. Vick
Chemical. Cov. (1951) 68 R.P.C. 103, and Application by Thomas A. Smith Ltd. to
Register a trade mark, (1913) 30 R.P.C. 363, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No, 749 of 1966.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated November 21, 1962 of the Madras High Court in Letters Patent Appeal
No. 57 of 1962.
A. K. Sen, K. Jayaram and A. Thiagarajan, for
M. C. Chagla, N. K. Anand, M. P.Rao and O. C.
Mathur, for respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Bachawat, J. The appellant is the sole proprietor of a trading concern known as
Radha & Co., The respondents Ambal & Co., are a partnership firm. The
respondents as also the appellant are manufacturers and dealers in snuff carrying
on business at Madras and having business activities inside and outside the
State of Madras. On March 10, 1958 the appellant filed application no. 183961
for registration of a trade mark in class 34 in respect of " snuff
manufactured in Madras." The respondents filed a notice of opposition. The
main ground of opposition was that the proposed mark was deceptively similar to
their registered trademarks. The respondents were the proprietors of the
registered marks nos. 126808 and 146291. Trade mark no. 126808 consists of a
label containing a device of a goddess Sri Ambal seated on a globe floating on
water enclosed in a circular frame with the legend "Sri 292 Ambal parimala
snuff" at the top of the label, and the name and address "Sri Ambal &
Co., Madras" at the bottom. Trade mark no. 146291 consists of the
expression "Sri Ambal". The mark of which the appellant seeks
registration consists of a label containing three panels. The first and the
third panels contain in Tamil, Devanagri, Telugu and Kannada the equivalents of
the words "Sri Andal Madras Snuff". The centre panel contains the
picture of goddess Sri Andal and the legend "Sri Andal".
Sri Andal and Sri Ambal are separate
divinities. Sri Andal was a vaishnavite woman saint of, Srivilliputur village
and was deified because of her union with Lord Ranganatha. Sri Ambal is the
consort of Siva or Maheshwara.
The respondents have been in the snuff
business for several decades and have used the word Ambal as part of their work
for more than half a century. The question in issue is whether the proposed
mark is deceptively similar to the respondents' marks. "Mark" as
defined in s. 2(j) of the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958 includes
"a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter or
numeral or any combination thereof". Section 12(1) provides that
"save as provided in sub-section (3), no trade mark shall be registered in
respect of any goods or des- cription of goods which is identical with or
deceptively similar to a trade mark which is already registered in the name of
a different proprietor in respect of the same goods or description of
goods." The Registrar of Trade of Marks observed :
"In a composite mark the distinctive
words, appearing on it play -an important part.
Words always talk more than devices, because
it is generally by the word part of a composite mark that orders will be given.
Apart from that, the opponents have a
registered mark consisting of the expression Sri Ambal. I have, therefore, to
determine whether the expression Sri Andal, is decep- tively similar to Sri
Ambal." He said :
" the sound of "Ambal" does
not so nearly resemble the sound of "Andal", in spite of certain
letters being common to both the marks, as to be likely to cause confusion or
deception among a substantial number of persons." The respondents filed an
appeal in the Madras High Court. Jagadishan, J. observed "It is settled
law that a trade mark comprehends not merely the picture design or symbol but
also its descriptive name. A copy of colourable imitation of the 293 name,
would constitute -an infringement of the mark containing the name. Nobody can
abstract the name or -use a phonetical equivalent of it and escape the charge of
piracy of the mark pleading that the visual aspect of his mark is different
from the mark of the person opposing its registration." He held:-
"The words, Ambal and Andal, have such great phonetic similarity that they
are undistinguishable having the same sound and pronounciation. In whatever way
they are uttered or spoken, slowly or quickly perfectly or imperfectly,
meticulously or carelessly and whoever utters them, a foreigner or a native of
India, wherever they are uttered in the noisy market place or in a calm and
secluded area, over the phone or in person, the danger of confusion between the
two phonetically allied names is imminent -and unavoidable." Accordingly,
he allowed the appeal and dismissed the appellant's application for
registration of the trade mark.
The appellant filed a letters patent appeal.
The Divisional Bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal. The learned
Registrar and the two courts below concurrently found that the appellant failed
to, prove honest concurrent use so as to bring his case within s. 12(3). The
present appeal has been filed by the appellant after obtaining special leave.
The Registrar was of the view that the
appellant's mark was not deceptively similar to the respondents' trademarks. He
has expert knowledge of such matters and his decision should not be lightly
disturbed. But both the courts have found that he was clearly wrong and held
that there is a deceptive similarity between the two marks. In -an appeal under
136 of the Constitution the onus is upon the
appellant to show that the concurrent finding of the courts below is erroneous.
The appellant must satisfy the court that the conditions of s. 12 (I) have been
satisfied. If those conditions are not satisfied his mark cannot be registered.
Now the words "Sri Ambal" form part
of trade mark no. 126808 and are the whole of trade mark no. 146291. There can
be no doubt that the word "Ambal" is an essential feature of the
trade marks. The common "Sri,, is the subsidiary part, of the two words
"Ambal" is the more distinctive and fixes itself in the recollection
of an average buyer with imperfect recollection.
The vital question in issue is whether, if
the appellant's mark is used in a normal and fair manner in connection with the
snuff LI 3Sup.CI/69- 5 294 and if similarly fair and normal user is assumed of
the existing registered marks, will there be such a likelihood of deception
that the mark ought not to be allowed to be registered (see In the matter of
Broadhead's Application(1) for registration of a trade mark). It is for the
court to decide the question on a comparison of the competing marks as a whole
and their distinctive and essential features. We have no doubt in our mind that
if the proposed mark is used in a normal and fair manner the mark would come to
be known by its distinguishing feature "Andal". There is a striking
similarity and affinity of sound between the words "Andal" and
"Ambal". Giving due weight to the judgment of the Registrar and
bearing in mind the conclusions of the learned Single Judge and the Divisional
Bench, we are satisfied that there is a real danger of confusion between the
There is no evidence of actual confusion, but
that might be due to the fact that the appellant's trade is not of long
standing. There is no visual resemblance between the two marks, but ocular
comparison is not always the decisive test. The resemblance between the two
marks must be considered with reference to the ear as well as the eye.
There is a close affinity of sound between
Ambal and Andal.
In the case of Coca-Cola Co. of Canada v.
Pepsi Cola Co. of Canada Ltd.(2), it was found that cola was in common use in
Canada for naming the beverages. The distinguishing feature of the mark Coca
Cola was coca and not cola. For the same reason the distinguishing feature of
the mark Pepsi Cola was Pepsi and not cola. It was not likely that anyone would
confuse the word Pepsi with coca. In the present case the word "Sri"
may be regarded as in common use. The distinguishing feature of the
respondent's mark is Ambal while that of the appellant's mark is Andal. The two
words are deceptively similar in sound.
The name Andal does not cease to be
deceptively similar because it is used in conjunction with a pictorial device.
The case of De Cordova & Ors. v. Vick
Chemical Coy.(3) is instructive. From the Appendix printed at page 270 of the
same volume it appears that Vick Chemical Coy were the proprietors of the
registered trade mark consisting of the word "Vaporub" and another
registered trade mark consisting of a design of which the words "Vicks
Vaporub Salve" formed a part. The appendix at page 226 -shows that the
defendants advertised their ointment as 'Karsote vapour Rub". It was held
that the defendants had infringed the registered mark& Lord Radcliffe said
: ". . . a mark is infringed (1) (1950) 57 R.P.C. 209, 214.
(3) (1951) 68 R.P.C. 103.
(2) (1942) 59 R.P.C. 127.
29 5 by another trader if, even without using
the whole of it upon or in connection with his goods, he uses one or more of
its essential features." Mr. Sen stressed the point that the words Ambal
and Andal had distinct meanings. Ambal is the consort of Lord Siva and Andal is
the consort of Ranganatha. He said that in view of the distinct ideas conveyed
by the two words a mere accidental phonetic resemblance could not lead to
In this connection he relied on
Venkateswaran's Law of Trade and Merchandise Marks,_ 1963 ed., page 214,
Kerly's Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names, 9th ed., page 465, art. 852 and the
decision Application by Thomas A. Smith Ltd., to, Register a trade mark(1). In
that case Neville, J. held that the words "limit" and
"summit" were words in common use, each conveying a distinctly
definite idea; that there was no possibility of any one being deceived by the
two marks; and there was no ground, for refusing registration.
Mr. Sen's argument loses sight of the
realities of the case.
The Hindus in the south of India may be well -aware that the words Ambal and Andal represent the names of two distinct
goddesses. But the respondent's customers are not confined to Hindus alone.
Many of their customers are Christians, Parsees, Muslims and persons of other
religious denominations. Moreover, their business is not confined to south of India. The customers who are not Hindus or who do not belong to the south of India may not know the difference between the words Andal and Ambal. The words have no
direct reference to the character and quality of snuff. The customers who use
the respondent's goods will have a recollection that they are known by the word
Ambal. They may also have a vague recollection of the portrait of a benign
goddess used in connection with the mark. They -are not likely to remember the
fine distinctions between a Vaishnavite goddess and a Shivaite deity.
We think the judgment appealed from is right
and should be affirmed. We are informed that the appellant filed another
application no. 212575 seeking registration of labels of which the expression
"Radha's Sri Andal Madras Snuff" forms a part. The learned Registrar
has disposed of -the application in favour of the appellant. But we understand
that an appeal is pending in the High Court. It was argued that there was no
phonetic similarity between Sri Ambal and Radha's Sri Andal and the use of the
expression Radha's Sri Andal was not likely to lead to confusion. The
Divisional Bench found force in this argument. But as the matter is sub-judice
we express no opinion on it.
In the result, the appeal is dismissed with
G.C. Appeal dismissed.
(1) (1913) 30 R.P.C. 363.