tea board of india vs ITC ltd.

2019, Calcutta high court.




Shahi Litchi of state, Mysore Silk, Coorg Orange, Kashmiri Pashmina, Mizo chilly among several others have one issue in common i.e. their quality, production and name is firmly connected to a specific geographical location. Property Rights square measure granted to product of such nature thanks to the very fact that they’re created during a specific region as a result of either distinctive natural factors or the character of skills needed. Such a protection is generally granted for Agro-based product, Foodstuffs, Beverages & Handicrafts. In India, such a protection is granted underneath the Geographical Indications of products (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.


Geographical Indications are outlined underneath Article twenty two of the journeys Agreement as, ‘indications that establish an honest as originating within the territory of a Member, or section|a vicinity|a part|a section} or locality in this territory, wherever a given quality, name or alternative characteristic of the nice is actually because of its geographical origin’.[1]


Timeline of the Dispute


The Tea Board obtained the standing of the first GI labelled Product in Asian nation within the year 2004-05 for ‘Darjeeling Tea’.


In the year 2010, Associate in Nursing action was brought by the Tea Board claiming injunction against ITC Ltd. before the city judicature for infringement of their GI and Certification Mark together with Passing Off and Dilution, since ITC restricted named a section of its luxury ITC SonarHotel in metropolis because the ‘Darjeeling Lounge’.[2] but, a similar was fired on the bottom that no clear case was created out and also the injunction was rejected.


The order of the single-judge was after upheld by the Division Bench of the HC.[3] Later within the same year, the Tea Board touched the Supreme Court[4], and also the SC refused to interfere with the August 2011 call of the HC and redirected the case to the city HC in 2016.[5] Eventually, Associate in Nursing order was gone along Hon’ble Justice Sahidullah Munshi on fourth February 2019, which can be mentioned additional.


Claims advanced by the Tea Board


According to the tea board, ITC Ltd. had been lawfully and fraudulently exploitation the GI within the designation of its business premises & presentation and sale of its product to mislead the users of such services.Moreover, there’s a considerable chance of confusion and linkage between the lounge and also the businesses historically managing authentic Darjeeling tea, that is eventually deceptive the users.


Takeaways from the Judgment


It was determined by the court that the suit was barred by limitation since the building Lounge was functioning since Gregorian calendar month 2003 and also the suit was filed by the Tea Board within the year 2010, that is on the far side the limitation amount prescribed underneath Section 26(4) of the GI Act, 1999. additionally to the present, the bar underneath Section 26(1)(a) shall even be applicable since the lounge began its functioning in Gregorian calendar month 2003 and also the GI Act came into force in Sep, 2003. Despite a similar, in compliance with Rule two, Order XIV of the CPC, the Court went ahead and addressed  the problems on the deserves of the case.


The most necessary assertion created by the city HC is that GI Rights shall solely be applicable to product and not services. In light-weight of the facts of the case, the Court command that the claim of infringement of provisions of the GI Act doesn’t stand since the litigator had obtained registration of the term Darjeeling solely in relevance tea, and it’s not a trademark, however a mere indication of origin of the products. Since, GI rights solely reach product the defendant’s lounge doesn’t qualify as product.


In this regard, Justice Sahidullah Munshi highlighted that,


‘In my read the full object of the GI Act is to feature to the economic prosperity to producers {of product|of products} and promote goods bearing Indian Geographical Origin for export’.[6]


Another necessary observation created by the Court was that,


Save and except the authority to certify that the involved tea is connected with Darjeeling region, the litigator cannot claim from now on proprietary right over the services rendered by the litigator underneath the name DARJEELING LOUNGE. Tea Board, therefore, underneath the provisions of the law, cannot exercise their authority with a restricted interest of certification trademark to verify the services rendered by the litigator in their lounge named ‘DARJEELING LOUNGE’.[7]


While considering the allegations concerning ‘unfair competition’ as claimed by the Tea Board, the  Hon’ble Court remarked that,


‘The allegation of unfair competition has been outlined in Section twenty two of Geographical Indication Act. in keeping with the Section act of ‘unfair competition’ means that any ‘act of competition contrary to the honest apply in industrial or industrial area’. Admittedly, there’s no competition between the litigator and litigator in any industrial or industrial matters and so, the question of competition so much less to mention unfair competition at intervals the that means of Geographical Indication Act cannot and/or doesn’t arise at all’.[8]


The Court all over that the suit was air headed in nature and went ahead and fired the suit and awarded prices within the tune of Rupees One 100000.




This specific dispute brings the overlap between emblems and Geographical Indications to the limelight. The city judicature fitly addressed  the problems involving multiple angles as well as impact of Certification emblems, determinant their distinction from regular trade marks, dilution, infringement similarly as passing off. The judgment additionally addresses and clarifies the limit of possession of rights granted to registered proprietors and specifically for authorities just like the Tea Board. The Court has dwelled into the basic principle behind the GI Act and also the genesis of a similar to determine that it’s solely applicable for cover of products and not services. The Hon’ble Court has set down the stone for additional redressal of problems arising out of overlapping between the Trademark law and GI.

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