In the case of Puma SE v. Ashok Kumar (CS(COMM) 703/2022 and I.A. 16559/2022), the Delhi High Court handed down a decisive decision in support of Puma SE, the well-known German manufacturer of clothing, accessories, and shoes, marking a major legal victory. The 20th October, 2023 decision in a lawsuit pitting Puma SE against defendant Ashok Kumar trading as ‘Kumkum Shoes, Agra for his massive production of counterfeit shoes emblazoned with Puma’s recognisable “leaping cat” mark/logo found Puma SE in the right. The Court granted an interim injunction restraining the Defendant from manufacturing, wholesaling, supplying, selling, marketing in any manner including online sale or dealing in any other way with any goods under the Plaintiff’s mark/logo ‘PUMA’ or any other mark/logo identical/similar to Plaintiff’s mark ‘PUMA’ and to remove all the listings from the third party websites.
Since its founding in 1948, Puma—which is currently a well-known athletic brand—has stood for quality. Puma SE has various registrations in India for the trademark “PUMA” as well as the device “leaping cat” since 1977 and 1986. Notably, since the 1980s, Puma SE has been exporting its goods to India under its umbrella brand “PUMA”.
The Plaintiff claimed that in September 2022, it learned about the Defendant engaged in selling counterfeit products that bore its trademark. Hence, the Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the Defendant seeking injunction for production and distribution of counterfeit “PUMA” products. The Defendant did not file the written statement and therefore, the Court granted an interim injunction in favour of the Plaintiff and appointed a Local Commissioner to search for seizure of the goods bearing the infringing mark. Subsequently, the investigation was conducted, and it was found that the Defendant was selling these illegal goods in Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
Based on the Plaintiff's claims and the Local Commissioner's report, Justice Prathiba M. Singh determined that the Defendant was running a large-scale manufacturing operation producing knockoff “PUMA” shoes. Further, the Court opined that the majority of consumers would find it difficult to identify the difference between the Defendant’s and Plaintiff’s products.
“The use of the ‘PUMA’ mark and logo by the Defendant on inferior quality products would not only result in violation of the Plaintiff’s statutory and common law rights but also lead to erosion of the Plaintiff’s brand equity and dilution of the marks”, the court stated, expressing concern about the potential erosion of brand equity and dilution of marks. If such infringement went unchecked, it would also be against the interests of the customer.
Hence, the suit was decreed in favour of the Plaintiff.