Only PepsiCo can use Mountain Dew trademark, rules HC
HYDERABAD: The Telangana High Court made it clear that PepsiCo has exclusive rights over the ‘Mountain Dew’ trademark. City-based Magfast Beverages is marketing packaged drinking water bottles with the ‘Mountain Dew’ name.
PepsiCo had sued the firm in the city civil court 18 years back. The dispute reached the High Court, as both companies were aggrieved by lower court’s orders.
The trial court had held that PepsiCo’s rights over ‘Mountain Dew’ were not exclusive and that Magfast Beverages also had a right to use the trademark because it was the first to use the label. The court reasoned that while Pepsi was using the Mountain Dew trademark for soft drinks, Magfast was using it for bottled water and these were two different categories.
The trial court also observed that the rights conferred by registration of the trademark were subject to the rights of prior users of the trademark, which in this case was Magfast Beverages.
PepsiCo approached the High Court by stating that it was spending approximately $15 million per annum on the advertisement and promotion of ‘Mountain Dew’, whose global annual sale was approximately $7 billion. In contrast, the rival firm has sales of Rs 3.25 lakh.
On behalf of PepsiCo, senior counsel K. Vivek Reddy argued that the firm had registered the ‘Mountain Dew’ trademark in 1985. It stated that Magfast Beverages had dishonestly copied the name for selling bottled water.
Senior counsel Sunil B. Ghanu, representing Magfast Beverages, argued that his client was not aware of PepsiCo’s trademark and that it came up with the ‘Mountain Dew’ brand on its own in 2000 much before Pepsi launched the soft drink in India.
The High Court bench, comprising Justice P. Naveen Rao and Justice G. Radha Rani, held that PepsiCo had exclusive rights over ‘Mountain Dew’ as it had a valid registration since 1985. The High Court noted that ‘Mountain Dew’ enjoyed worldwide reputation even before 2000 when the drinking water brand was launched by the city firm.
The court held that even though bottled water and soft drinks are different products, they are sold across the same counter and if they are sold by an identical mark, customers are likely to believe that both are being sold by Pepsi. The bench held that Magfast Beverages had committed copyright violation by copying the ‘Aquafina’ label and the description on Aquafina bottle, which is the bottled water brand of PepsiCo.
The High Court issued a permanent injunction barring Magfast Beverages from infringing on PepsiCo’s trademark and also directed it to pay Rs 5 lakh damages to PepsiCo.