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A trademark is a symbol or label that is used to show customers that a product or service comes from a particular person or company. It helps customers easily distinguish between different


A trademark is a symbol or label that is used to show customers that a product or service comes from a particular person or company. It helps customers easily distinguish between different products and services. For a trademark to be protected, it needs to be unique and not cause confusion with other products or services. In the legal sphere of trademark law, a landmark case that significantly impacted the recognition of product reputation and goodwill is the Colgate-Palmolive Company case.[1] The ruling, in this case, established that a product’s distinct visual features such as colour, style, shape, or texture, which have been present in the market for a considerable time, can acquire a “secondary meaning”. Trademarks help customers differentiate between different products and reduce the effort of finding specific products or services that meet their needs.


Exploring Misrepresentation in Trademark Law: When it comes to trademark cases, it is essential to carefully evaluate the defendant’s mark in comparison to the plaintiff’s registered mark. [2] It’s crucial to consider the entire mark used by the defendant and to compare it to the registered mark of the plaintiff. Moreover, it’s important to adhere to the Anti-Dissection Rule[3], which means that conflicting composite marks should not be broken down into their component parts for comparison. [4] Instead, the totality of the proposed trademark should be assessed to determine if it is likely to confuse with the registered mark. It’s essential to note that a difference in a portion of a word may not be enough to avoid similarities that could confuse. The key factor is whether the totality of the proposed trademark is likely to cause confusion or not.

Tests for Determining Mark Infringement

Trademark similarity is a crucial element in determining whether infringement has occurred. The standard for similarity is not a close resemblance but rather a mere resemblance or close similarity. To establish substantial similarity, courts apply the “ordinary observer” test. This test examines the response of an average lay observer to determine if a copyright holder’s original expression is recognizable in the allegedly infringing work. The factors that create confusion depend on several factors, including the nature of the mark itself, the class of customers, and the trade channel. To determine the likelihood of confusion or deception by the use of a mark, these factors must be taken into account.

When determining deceptive similarity, it is essential to examine whether the essential features of the plaintiff’s trademark are present in that used by the defendant. There is no universal test to determine the similarity between two marks, and the test applied may differ based on the class of buyers and the country. For instance, the test applied in a country like India may differ from the one in England, the United States, or Australia. To establish deceptive similarity, courts typically consider the visual, phonetic, and conceptual similarities between the marks. This involves examining the overall impression created by the mark, including its distinctive elements and its potential impact on consumers. Ultimately, the determination of deceptive similarity is highly fact-specific and requires a comprehensive assessment of all relevant factors.

To determine if a design would confuse the mind of an average consumer, it’s important to analyze the design independently and compare it to the registered trademark. Structural, visual, and phonetic similarities or differences between the two designs must be considered, as well as the impression they create. Courts use various tests, such as the “ordinary memory of ordinary purchaser,” “essential features,” and “environmental” tests, to evaluate similarity and deception. Each case requires a careful analysis of different factors and perspectives to determine the likelihood of confusion or deception.[5]

Requirement of Intention to Deceive in Trademark Infringement

The intention to deceive is not the determining factor when assessing if a trademark creates confusion or deception. Even if the person using the trademark had no intention to deceive the public, it does not change the fact that confusion or deception may occur.[6] In the Kirloskar Diesel Recon Pvt. Ltd. case[7], it was established that fraudulent intention did not need to be proven by the plaintiff, as the reputation of the trademark is sufficient evidence in itself. Thus, once a trademark has gained a reputation, the plaintiff is not required to demonstrate fraudulent intention or misrepresentation on the part of the defendant.

Significance of the Term ‘Consumer’ in Trademark Law

When evaluating the similarity between marks, the key factor to consider is the average consumer – someone who is reasonably well-informed, observant, and careful. This individual may not have the opportunity to make a direct comparison but rather relies on their imperfect recollection of the marks. It’s essential to consider the adult public at large when assessing the resemblance between the marks. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the level of care a consumer takes when examining a mark cannot be presumed. The standard of care is not based on the intelligence or attentiveness of an unusually gullible person, but rather that of an average individual. Various factors, such as product cost and education level, can affect a consumer’s level of attentiveness. While extremely gullible individuals may be less likely to be deceived, the standard of care remains the same. [8]


A trademark serves as an identifier of the source of a product or service. However, in order to be protected under trademark law, a trademark must meet two important criteria: it must be distinctive and it cannot cause confusion or deception about the source of the product or service. The concept of Deceptive Similarity is a critical factor in trademark protection. It refers to trademarks that are so similar to existing protected marks that they are likely to cause confusion or deception among the public, particularly those who are not fully literate or educated.

In Indian law, the term “deceptive similarity” is commonly used, whereas U.S. law uses the phrase “confusingly similar” to describe the concurrent use of conflicting marks that are likely to cause infringement. The impact of the mark on an average person, who may have imperfect recollection and not apply full caution while making a purchase, is an essential factor in determining whether a mark is deceptively similar. A mark is considered “deceptively similar” if it is likely to confuse or mislead a substantial number of average consumers into believing that the goods sold under the mark originate from the same source as the protected mark. Trademark infringement occurs when an infringing mark is identical or deceptively similar to the registered mark. In a passing-off action, the use of the mark must be likely to cause confusion or deception and cause injury or damage to the plaintiff’s reputation. It is essential to note that Deceptive Similarity is not based on proof of intention. It is determined by the facts and circumstances of each case, and the impact of the mark on the average consumer.

Author(s) Name: Jahnvi S. (Graduate, NMIMS University, Mumbai)


[1] Colgate Palmolive Company v. Anchor Health and Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd., 108 (2003) DLT 51

[2] Cadbury India Limited v. Neeraj Food Products, 142 (2007) DLT 724

[3] Cadila Healthcare Ltd. v. Aureate Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., CS (OS) No.123 of 2011

[4] Pepsico, Inc v. Psi Ganesh Marketing, CS(OS) 157/2013, decided on 19 May, 2014

[5] MIS Mohan Meakin Limited v. A.B. Sugars Limited, CS (OS) 2335/2010

[6] P.L. Anwar Basha v. M. Natrajan, AIR 1980 Mad 56

[7] Kirloskar Diesel Recon Pvt. Ltd. v. Kirloskar Proprietary Ltd, AIR 1996 Bom 149

[8] Devi Pesticides Private Ltd. Rep. v. Shiv Agro – Chemicals Industries, (2006) 2 MLJ 834