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Karnataka HC on Vogue Institute Dismiss Injunction, State No Infringement of Trademark ‘VOGUE’

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Karnataka High Court Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: 23 November 2022 at 11:57 IST

The Karnataka High Court has overturned a permanent injunction issued by the Bengaluru Civil Court prohibiting Vogue Institute of Management from using the trademark “VOGUE” as part of their name and trading practises.

The Justice M Arun said in allowing the institute’s appeal, “has applied the test, i.e., applicable to a common man who would get confused by the use of the word ‘VOGUE’ itself and has come to the erroneous conclusion that the defendants’ institute can be passed off as the institute of the plaintiff,”

Factual Background

In March 1998, Advance Magazine Publishers, the owners of the renowned “Vogue” magazine, learned that the defendants were operating a training facility under the name and branding of “VOGUE Institute of Fashion Technology” and utilising catchphrases like “VOGUE” the wonderful career alternative.

As a result, on March 31, 1998, the plaintiff sent a legal notification to the college administration. The publishers claim that the defendants’ response was unworkable. So, a lawsuit was brought up to demand the rendering of accounts and a permanent injunction. In 2014, the trial court approved the lawsuit.

The supreme court ruled that the college administration is in charge of an institution, not a publication called “VOGUE.” Therefore, it said, there is no trademark violation.

“It is enforceable with regard to all trademarks, whether they are registered or unregistered, and is an action for infringement of common law rights. The secret to the solution is false and deceptive portrayal that causes confusion or deception.”

“:The only factor that should be taken into account is whether the mark is likely to mislead or confuse consumers who could mistakenly think they are purchasing goods from the plaintiff.”

The bench then considered the nature of the goods/services for which the plaintiff and the defendants use the word “VOGUE” as well as the class of consumers who are likely to purchase the goods/services offered by the plaintiff and the defendants based on their education, intelligence, and degree of care they are likely to exercise in choosing the plaintiff’s magazine or the defendants’ services, and whether they are likely to become confused.

The court stated, “A small portion of the general population either subscribes to or reads the fashion magazine that the plaintiff publishes. It is used by a small segment of the population that is normally conscious of fashion.”

“Customers who subscribe to the plaintiff’s magazine are likely to be aware that the plaintiff’s magazine simply publishes periodicals and does not operate any institutions, “

The court added that similarly, people who enrol in the institute are those who are familiar with the fashion industry, and given the level of caution that a typical student is likely to exercise, it is extremely unlikely that they would mistake the defendants’ institute for one that belongs to the publishers.

While allowing the appeal, the court stated that “the trial court has failed to comprehend the aforementioned factor.”