#CASE SUMMARY: PLUSPLUS LIFESCIENCES LLP & ANR. V/s. DR. SHIWANI SINGH & ORS

Facts:

  1. Plaintiffs filed a suit state that Plaintiff No.1 , a healthcare Company Mr. Sameer and Surbhi Gupta are the directors of the healthcare company, which was founded in 2020, Surbhi Gupta  while she was founded in 2018. The Plaintiff No.2 is engaged in marketing and distributing the products produced by the plaintiff No.1.
  2. In the year of 2019 Mr. Sameer Agarwal conducted a survey which is based on multi-vitamin products containing micronutrients that can cater to all the nutritional and other mineral needs of Indian women at once, that is, in a single pill. As a result, it was found that there was no pre-natal supplement in India, especially one which is designed keeping in mind the different environmental, dietary, biological and nutritional factors that affect pregnant Indian women. After that Mr. Sameer Agarwal and his team developed a range of medicinal goods, which are now marketed under the mark ‘TRIMACARE,’ which is one of a kind multi-micronutrient, prenatal/antenatal supplement developed purely based on the biological requirements of Indian pregnant women. And finally, they got the license from the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) for the medicine TRIMACARE received on 12.01.2021. Plaintiff No.1 along with their in-house team targeted the two types of customers that is, gynaecology doctors, general practitioners, physicians, researchers; as also patients ranging from different socio-economic backgrounds, to test consumer acceptance and study the potential of this medicine.

 

  1. In the plaint averments also contains trademark and copyright vested in the mark ‘TRIMACARE’, as far as the intellectual property rights in ‘TRIMACARE’ is concerned, is based on the misuse of the alleged confidential information by the defendants and not on the violation of any alleged rights of the plaintiffs in the trademark and /or copyright in the packaging/label. Even the Plaintiff No.1 claimed that this medicine ‘TRIMACARE’ is unique and one-of-its-kind in the market and no other company has been able to launch a competing pharmaceutical product. Even plaintiff states from time to time they trained sales and marketing personnel about the said product, its efficacious advantages, uses, including the competitive edge over other products, visual aids were created by Mr. Sameer Agarwal, which was licenced to the plaintiff no.1.
  2. It is submitted that the medicine ‘TRIMACARE’ was developed by the plaintiffs in collaboration with Deccan Healthcare, with whom the plaintiffs have executed a Non-Disclosure Agreement even they adopted the following practices to safeguard its proprietary and confidential information that may be generated within the company I) Execution of NDA at the time of joining company, (ii) prohibition of carrying any documents, documents, physical or electronic, outside the organisation without express consent from Mr. Sameer Agarwal or Ms. Surbhi Gupta and so on. Then the plaintiff has also filed a patent on 25.01.2021.
  3. Then the defendant No.1 was appointed by the plaintiff as project manager, and he has all confidential data’s after that on recommendations defendant No.2 was appointed as Zonal Business Manager and on same defendant No.3 appointed as regional business manager. Defendant No.2 and 3 were the main part of the sales and marketing team so they had all the high confidential data of that product bearing the mark TRADEMARK. Defendant No.1 had given resignation on 10.01.2022 and also defendant No.2 and 3 gave resignation on 8.01.2022 immediately after an extensive training workshop was conducted for the sales and marketing personnel for the launch of another product of the plaintiffs, being ‘LAYERCARE’,
  4. After leaving that company Defendant No. 1 to 3 were about to launch were about to launch a pre-natal supplement under the trademark ‘NUTRIEPIC’, which the plaintiffs claim is based on and has the same ingredients as that of the plaintiffs’ goods ‘TRIMACARE’. Plaintiff claims that the defendant medicines are developed in the same lines as the plaintiff’s medicines. As defendant No. was well aware of the formulae which has been used in the Plaintiff medicines. And it was clearly a threat to the plaintiff that defendants No.1 to 3 were working for the development and launch of their goods ‘NUTRIEPIC’ while being in employment of the plaintiffs.
  5. Then coming to dispute that the plaintiffs have also launched a ‘diagnostic’’ medicine bearing the trademark ‘LAYERCARE’ on 09.02.2022. Sameer Agarwal, the licensor of the plaintiff no.1, has also filed a Trademark Application bearing no.5158258 to protect the rights in the said mark. The application of this mark is still pending before the Trademarks Registry. On the other hand, the defendant said that the plaintiff applied for the patent in the patent office is not at all a novel product. Even they said no confidential information had shared to them and the goods of both the parties are quite different.

ISSUES RAISED :

  1. Whether the Confidential Information Misused by The Defendants or Not?
  2. Whether there Is a Likelihood of Confusions or Use Of Deceptive  Marks?
  3. Whether there Is a Passing Off Action Arise or Not?
  4. Whether there is a breach of contract or not?
  5. Whether there is an infringement of copyright ?

RULE OF LAW:

  1. Examination Report under Sections 12 and 13 of the Patents Act, 1970 dated 23.05.2022, has objected to the grant of patent inter alia stating that the subject-matter of the claims made therein by the plaintiffs are obvious and lack inventive steps.
  2. Section 134 of Trademark Act,1999 Suit for infringement etc to be instituted before District Court.
  3. Section of 84 Patent Act (Compulsory license)

JUDGMENT:

Plusplus Lifesciences filed the suit against its former employees, seeking, among other things, injunctions to prevent the defendants from misusing confidential information, trade secrets, breach of contract, and infringement of copyright, trademarks, and passing off. On August 22, this year, the High Court granted the plaintiffs an ex-parte ad interim injunction prohibiting the defendants from manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, advertising, or otherwise dealing with their products Nutriepic and Uttercare. However, Justice Navin Chawla ruled that the defendants of the plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights had not misused confidential information. The Court also stated that the defendants’ springboard claims for being ex-employees of the plaintiff company is false.“As a result, the plaintiffs would have to demonstrate that the information claimed to be confidential is of such a nature that the defendants can only obtain it as a result of their employment with the plaintiffs. It is mere vague assertions that such information is related to the sales and marketing plan and strategy developed are insufficient “the specified order. They contended that there was no infringement of the plaintiff’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) because the medicine manufactured by the plaintiff was not based on any novel process, as noted in an interim communication from the Indian Patent Office to the plaintiff. “According to the general principles of passing off, the word ‘CARE’ is a generic word over which the plaintiffs cannot claim exclusiveness. The marks ‘LAYERCARE’ and ‘UTTERCARE’ are not visually or phonetically similar. The packaging of the two products, namely ‘LAYERCARE’ and ‘UTTERCARE,’ is also entirely different and sufficient to dispel any passing off claim. As a result, it rescinds the ex-parte ad interim order issued in August. It did, however, order the defendants to disclose their sales of their medicinal product ‘Nutriepic’ on a bi-annual basis.

CONCLUSION:

The case is about likelihood of confusions, Misuse of Confidential information, and Infringements. After analyzing the whole facts, Issues and Judgment the conclusion is that the plaintiff couldn’t prove one of the core concepts of Trademark Law which is likelihood of confusion because there is no strong evidence against the Defendants ,basically one should prove how this mark is so strong, similarities of marks, evidence of confusions etc. Here plaintiff lagging behind these foundational concepts of Trademark law.  And the second part is about mis utilizing the confidential information which is  ambiguous in nature. Passing off as it is clearly mentioned in Section 134 of Trademarks Act,1999 states that any trademark which is identical or deceptively similar to other’s mark but here the  scenario is different ‘CARE’ is a generic word over which nobody cannot claim the exclusiveness.

Click Here for full Judgment.

Submitted by:

Ms. Subhashree Mishra
Intern,
CIPRA_NLSIU

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