Geonix Chronicles: The Delhi High Court Navigating Trademark Intricacies

Posted On - 23 March, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


Recently, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Western Digital Technologies Inc. & Anr. v. Geonix International Private Limited & Anr.[1], addressed the allegations of trademark infringement and reverse passing off. Plaintiffs, Western Digital Technologies and its subsidiary claimed that Defendant No. 1, Geonix International Private Limited, unlawfully refurbished and rebranded “WD” hard disks as “Geonix” hard disks. The court heard and disposed of multiple interim applications including exemptions from institutions of pre-litigation mediation, from filing clear and translated copies, leave to file additional documents, etc. Importantly, the Court heard and decided I.A. 4404/2024 which was an application for ex-parte, ad interim injunction. Based on prima facie findings, the Court granted an ex-parte ad interim injunction, restraining Defendant No. 1 from altering or rebranding HDDs bearing Plaintiffs’ trademarks until the next hearing.

Analyzing the Order for Interim Injunction

The Plaintiff’s Version and Contentions

  • Plaintiff Details: Plaintiff No. 1 is Western Digital Technologies Inc., a Delaware-based company specializing in storage devices, media players, routers, SSDs, HDDs, software, mobile application and related equipment. Plaintiff No. 2 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Plaintiff No. 1, the registered owner of the trademark ‘ULTRASTAR.’
  • Trademark Registrations: Plaintiff No. 1 uses ‘WESTERN DIGITAL’ as a house mark and is the registered proprietor of the device/logo ‘WD.’ Plaintiff No. 2 is the registered owner of the trademark ‘ULTRASTAR.’
  • Global Presence and Goodwill: Plaintiffs hold trademark registrations in various countries and have consistently used their Marks. Significant marketing/advertising expenses have established widespread goodwill and recognition for their products.
  • Defendant Details: Defendant No. 1 is Geonix International Private Limited, a wholesaler, retailer, and manufacturer of HDDs and SSDs.
  • Discovery of Impugned Products: In November 2023, Plaintiffs discovered old/used HDDs being refurbished and sold as brand-new under Defendant No. 1’s ‘Geonix’ branding.
  • Investigation and Confirmation: Samples of ‘Geonix’ HDDs were purchased, which confirmed that they are refurbished and rebranded original products. Defendant No. 1 altered Plaintiffs’ trademarks and markings, including serial numbers and model identifiers.
  • Technical Reports: Third-party expert and internal verification confirmed the alteration of HDDs, including the reformatting of PCB with Defendant No. 1’s markings.
  • Identification of Original Manufacturer: Despite alterations, Plaintiffs can still be identified as the original manufacturers of the Impugned Products through a device-generated report upon running the HDDs.
  • Legal Allegations:
    • Defendant No. 1’s actions constitute infringement of Plaintiffs’ trademarks.
    • Removal of original trademarks without permission and selling rebranded products as new amounts to reverse passing off.
    • Citing Section 30(4) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, Plaintiffs assert a legitimate reason for seeking an injunction due to the material alteration and impairment of goods.
  • The objective of the Suit: The lawsuit seeks protection of the Plaintiffs’ trademarks against the unauthorized refurbishing, rebranding, and deceptive marketing practices employed by Defendant No. 1.

The Defendant’s Version and Contentions

  • Impugned Products Identification: Defendant No. 1 argues that the Impugned Products are sold exclusively under their brand ‘Geonix,’ refuting any association with the Plaintiffs’ original products.
  • Trademark Infringement: They contend that there is no trademark infringement, emphasizing the clear distinction in branding and the absence of customer misrepresentation.
  • Lawful Acquisition and Trademark Law Sections: They assert the lawful acquisition of Impugned Products and cite Sections 29, 30(3), and 30(4) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 to argue for exhaustion of Plaintiffs’ trademark rights.
  • Exhaustion of Trademark Rights: They stress upon the legal basis for the sale, claiming that the exhaustion of trademark rights permits Defendant No. 1 to sell the Impugned Products without infringement.
  • Absence of Trademark Infringement Claim: They maintain that there is no case of trademark infringement, given the distinct branding of the Impugned Products under ‘Geonix.’
  • Counterargument on Misrepresentation: They challenge the Plaintiffs’ contention of misrepresentation, stating that customers are not misled as the products are clearly labeled and sold under Defendant No. 1’s brand.

The Court’s Decision

  • Prima Facie Findings: The Court, at the present stage, considers the issue of an ad interim ex-parte injunction based on the pleadings. Prima facie, the acts of Defendant No. 1 are viewed as causing erosion of the Plaintiffs’ reputation and goodwill.
  • Identification of Impugned Products: The goods sold by Defendant No. 1 are demonstrated to be products originally manufactured by Plaintiffs, refurbished, and rebranded.
  • Linkage and Reputation Impact: The report generated by running HDDs on a device establishes a connection between the Impugned Products and Plaintiffs, potentially detrimental to the Plaintiffs’ reputation.
  • Reverse Passing Off: The Court deems this as a case of reverse passing off, as Defendant No. 1 falsely designates the origin and source of the Impugned Products, invoking Sections 30(3) and 30(4) of the Act.
  • Granting of Ad-Interim Injunction:
    • The Court finds that the Plaintiffs have made out a prima facie case, and the absence of an ad-interim injunction would lead to irreparable loss.
    • The balance of convenience favours the Plaintiffs, and therefore, Defendant No. 1 is restrained from impairing/altering/repackaging/rebranding HDDs bearing the Plaintiffs’ trademarks until the next date of hearing.
  • Next Date of Hearing: The case is listed before the Court on 03.04.2024.


The Delhi High Court’s ex-parte ad interim injunction reflects a preliminary acknowledgment of the potential harm to the Plaintiffs’ reputation due to Defendant No. 1’s alleged actions. The Court’s findings on reverse passing off and identification of the Impugned Products establish a strong prima facie case. Looking forward, the balance of convenience and the granted injunction signal a proactive stance in safeguarding the Plaintiffs’ trademarks. The upcoming hearing will likely delve deeper into the intricate aspects of the case.

[1] CS(COMM) 168/2024.