Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vogue Loses a Trademark Battle in India

The Case

The Bombay High Court has recently dismissed a trademark infringement case filed by publisher of fashion magazine Vogue. The publisher filed a case seeking to restrain a retail store chain from using the phrase “JUST IN VOGUE.”  Vogue claimed that this phrase confuses consumers into thinking that the retail store has something to do with Vogue, when in fact it does not.

Trademark law basically says you cannot copy someone else’s trademark if your goods or services are similar to those offered by the trademark owner. In other words, you can copy somebody’s trademark if your class of goods/services is different from the class of goods/services offered by the trademark owner.

In this case, Vogue is a magazine publisher, whereas the defendant is a retailer of fashion goods. So, they deal in different classes of goods and services. Vogue, however, claimed that their trademark is such a well-known mark that it is entitled not only to protection in the classes in which it is registered, but also other classes generally to prevent businesses from piggybacking on Vogue goodwill.

The Court, however, decided that the consumers in this case are unlikely to be misled into thinking that the defendant’s goods have anything to do with Vogue. That’s because, according to the Court:

- “plaintiff's magazines are read by… intelligent, affluent, well travelled women in the age group of 26 to 45. On the other hand, customers of the defendant are said to be primarily men from the middle strata of the society” and

- "Magazine publishers are not ordinarily known to be retailing fashion goods, and hardly anyone is likely to be misled into believing that the magazine and the fashion goods come from the same source."

My Opinion

I disagree with the Court’s assertion that there is no consumer confusion here. I think it’s quite possible that a number of consumers get confused when they see the same word (a well known brand) used by a fashion magazine publisher and retailer of fashion goods. My first impression looking at the storefront is that the goods offered were just featured in Vogue Magazine. However, I am not an Indian consumer and I am not deeply familiar with this case.