Indian firm allowed to use P & G's Safeguard name

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NEW DELHI -- An Indian court has allowed a local company to use the Safeguard name for its antiseptic cream despite objections from Procter & Gamble Co., which claims the brand belongs to its world-renowned toilet soap.

The judgment from the Delhi High Court in favour of Shripa Laboratories, based in Baroda, Gujarat, has thrown the entire trademarks issue in India into turmoil. A diametrically opposite judgment has only just been delivered by the Supreme Court in favour of Whirlpool Corp. against an Indian company that claimed the Whirlpool trademark.

The Delhi High Court overturned a previous injunction restraining Shripa from marketing antiseptic creams under the Safeguard name, a practice followed by the local marketer for 13 years. The court said P&G had no monopoly over a word like Safeguard.

In its defence, P&G produced Safeguard ads in international publications sold in India and also purchases of the soap by foreign embassies in India. The court reasoned that both products were of a differing nature and that P&G had failed to prove the distinctiveness of the word "Safeguard".

In Whirlpool's case, the Supreme Court ruled that even if a multinational's brand wasn't sold in India, its worldwide goodwill entitled it to a common right to claim the sole use of the trademark to the exclusion of other Indian firms who may have registered the trademark with the local authorities at an earlier date.

P&G, which has three companies in India with combined revenues of $300m, will approach the New Delhi-based Registrar of Trade Marks of India to be granted a trademark.

Copyright September 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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