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Delhi HC restrains Ludhiana-based firms from making ‘Rallies’ bicycles in trademark infringement case

A Switzerland-based cycle manufacturer had claimed infringement of its 125-year-old ‘RALEIGH’ trademark, saying the use of ‘RALLIES’ by the Ludhiana companies was violative of their rights as ‘RALLIES’ is phonetically similar to ‘RALEIGH’.

The high court, however, allowed the defendants Imperial Cycle Mfg. Co. and Rocket Cycles Private Limited time till November 15, 2023, to dispose of its existing stock. (File)

The Delhi High Court recently restrained two Ludhiana-based companies from manufacturing and advertising bicycles under the ‘RALLIES’ mark after a Switzerland-based cycle manufacturer claimed infringement of its 125-year-old ‘RALEIGH’ trademark.

A single judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh in its November 29 order granted an “interim injunction” in favour of Switzerland-based ‘Swiss Bike Vertriebs GMBH, subsidiary of ACCELL Group’, and ordered, “Defendants shall cease manufacture as well as advertising in physical shops and through online platforms including e-commerce platforms of all such goods mentioned above, under the mark ‘RALLIES’ or any other mark which is identical/deceptively similar mark to the plaintiff’s mark ‘RALEIGH’”.

The high court, however, allowed the defendants Imperial Cycle Mfg. Co. and Rocket Cycles Private Limited time till November 15, 2023, to dispose of its existing stock. The court, however, made it clear that no fresh manufacturing of products under the ‘RALLIES’ mark will be allowed beyond the given date. “After the said date, none of the products under the mark ‘RALLIES’ shall be made available in the physical stores or on the e-commerce platforms. The defendants shall also shut down their website i.e., within one week from today,” the court said.

The Swiss company claimed that the use of the ‘RALLIES’ mark by the Ludhiana companies is violative of their statutory and common law rights as ‘RALLIES’ is phonetically similar to the ‘RALEIGH’. They claimed that the defendants were not “merely copying the mark” but also various other attributes such as colour combination used on the bikes, images of the Raleigh bicycles and even their advertisement poster. “The said poster is also available on the defendants’ website,” they claimed. The company argued that “there is bound to be confusion between the two marks as the products and business of the parties are identical”.

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During the course of the hearing, the Ludhiana-based companies agreed to give up the use of the Rallies trademark. The high court thereafter noted, “However, in view of the fact that the defendants have agreed to give up further manufacture and sale of the products being bicycles, motor-bicycles and parts of all such goods, baby carriages, perambulators, sidecars and, trailers under the mark ‘RALLIES’, the interim injunction would be liable to is granted.”

Swiss Bike Vertriebs GMBH claimed that it owns and operates a wide range of bike/bicycle brands throughout Europe, including ‘RALEIGH’. They said that the Raleigh mark originated in Nottingham, UK more than 125 years ago. The business is stated to be founded in 1887 in the name of Raleigh Cycle Co. Ltd. and the mark ‘RALEIGH’ is used for a wide product base i.e., for children’s bikes, city bikes, mountain bikes, etc globally. The same is publicised on the company’s website which was registered in 1998 and through various social media platforms such as Facebook, Telegram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

The company claimed that as per news reports, bicycles/cycles/bikes under the said mark were imported for the first time in India in 1910. Bicycle products were initially manufactured in Siliguri, India in the late 1920s-early 1930s by Sen-Raleigh Cycle Factory, Asansol (West Bengal) and sold under the mark ‘SEN-RALEIGH’. In 1939, the company commenced the use of the mark ‘RALEIGH’ and its different variations. In 2012, a distributorship and license agreement was entered into between the Swiss company and its Indian licensee M/s Naren International, based out of Ludhiana, Punjab for “exclusively manufacturing, importing, selling and distributing ‘RALEIGH’ bicycles products in India”.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 11:51 IST
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