Pratibha M. Singh v. Singh and Associates
IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
Date of Decision: 14th October, 2014
CS(OS) No. 1173 of 2012
In the present case, one Advocate filed a suit against another law firm on the ground of infringement of Trade Mark and passing off. After, a lot of efforts by the Hon’ble Court, towards reaching an amicable settlement in the matter, no settlement was arrived at and the matter was argued at length.
Plaintiff’s Main Contentions:
• Plaintiff has been using the Trade Mark ‘Singh & Singh’ since 1997 and the said trade mark has acquired goodwill and reputation.
• In April, 2012, Plaintiff learnt that Advocates working in the name and style of the Defendant were making unsolicited approaches to the foreign associates and clients of the Plaintiff.
• As the Defendant use the mark ‘Singh & Associates’, there are instances of confusion amongst the clients.
Defendant’s Main Contentions:
• Surname “Singh” is extremely common in India.
• The proprietor of the Defendant, namely Mr. Manoj K. Singh adopted it bonafidely.
• There is no similarity between ‘Singh & Singh’ and ‘Singh & Associates’
• That the Plaintiff was aware of the Defendant at least since 2010.
Court’s Observations and Approach:
In light of the fact, that the dispute is between two advocates, the matter should be approached not with a purely legal approach but with a lasting legal solution, in the sense of a judge occupying a father figure.
The application for interim relief was disposed with the following observation:
The Defendant, would add the words “Founder Manoj K. Singh” under it’s logo. (In arriving at the said conclusion, the Hon’ble Court relied on the concept of ‘Priming’ (implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus) and ‘Word Association’).
The Court further observed:
“It cannot be lost sight of that persons looking for “Singh & Singh” and “Singh & Associates” in the context of Intellectual Property Laws would not expect either of the two to have allowed such a possibility and would expect their Advocates to take care, to protect at least their own name. We have to judge the situation not only in the context of Indians but also in context of foreigners with whom both, plaintiff and defendant, claim to be having large dealings. Such foreigners are not expected to know of ‘Singh’ being a common surname in India and to thus be cautious.”
“I may also observe that I find it in the interest of both to have such distinctions, lest their clients form an opinion that if they cannot protect their own name, they cannot be expected to protect the clients’ interest.”
The application was disposed off with the direction as stated above.