The bitter saga of Sri Krishna Sweets

Sri Krishna Sweets is amid a trademark battle between two brothers on the use of their family business’s mark. Although the Madras HC has allowed the younger brother to use the mark, another hearing is set for November 11, 2018.

There has been a feud brewing for the last few years in the family that owns Coimbatore-based confectionery Sri Krishna Sweets which has multiple outlets across India and crores in revenue. The use of the trademark ‘Sri Krishna Sweets’, which can be traced back to 1948, is the bone of contention between the two sons of the founder N.K. Mahadeva Iyer.

Elder brother allegedly gave an oral license to younger brother Murali to open many outlets in the same name but asked to formalise such license in 2015. Mr. Murali refused to do so and claimed it was a family mark and due to his inheritance, he had an equal right. 

The Trial and High Court sided with the younger brother stating that there was acquiescence for 20 years on part of the elder brother. Mr. Murali further applied to IPAB to cancel Mr. Krishna’s applications which, due to a glitch, appeared as abandoned. Against this order, Mr. Krishna filed 3 writ petitions at the Madras High Court. The High Court has stayed the order of IPAB and set the next date of hearing as November 11, 2018.

Takeaways:

  1. One of the reasons for declining the plea of Mr. Krishna was that he had not raised any objection to Mr. Murali using the trademarks for 20 years which was considered as acquiescence (reluctant approval without protest). It is a commonly used defence in trademark disputes.
     
  2. In the case of Sri Narasus’s Coffee Company v. Sri Narasu’s Roller Flour Mill, made it clear that in the trademark dispute between family members should not be treated as a trademark dispute but as a family dispute.
     
  3. A similar judgment was given by the Bombay High Court in the case of Parle Products Private Limited v. Parle Agro Private Limited, 2009(3) Bom CR 379 where the use of a house mark by the family members was held to be valid. 
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