In a landmark judgement delivered by the High Court of Delhi, in a case filed by Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Ahmedabad, against Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the marketers of Amul, Justice GS Sistani has ruled that the descriptive words 'Sugar Free' cannot be used as a trade mark and cannot be owned by any one.
The judge also ruled that Cadila Healthcare could not be allowed to arrogate its monopoly to use the expression 'Sugar Free' since the expression being inherently descriptive in nature has become a commonly used word in relation to foods and beverages. The judge observed that since 'sugar free' is not a coined word nor an unusual combination of words, it is therefore a commonly used expression in written as well as spoken English and hence cannot be monopolised for use by any trade.
The judgment also says it is clear that any descriptive word cannot be monopolised as having secondary meaning unless that is the only manner that product can be described and no other.
Justice GS Sistani also made it clear that one cannot own any popular expression in line of particular category and it will not be equitable to allow a blanket injunction for use of popular expression by one party, so long as it is used as a descriptive epithet and not as trademark.
He also remarked that while using these words by way of descriptive expression one should be prepared to take the risk of widespread use of similar trademark by fellow traders.
This important judgement would therefore restrict monopolistic use of popular expressions especially with descriptive nature by few traders. Such descriptive words therefore would be open to use by anyone in trade and business.
As a result, Amul can advertise its sugar free ice cream using the words 'sugar free', against which Cadila Healthcare had filed the injunction.