Bombay High court quashes FIR against Pune reporter in Trademark infringement case

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The Bombay High Court has quashed an FIR registered by Pune city police against Prateek Goyal, a journalist with online news portal ‘Newslaundry’, for using the logo of ‘Sakal Media Group’ in two articles.

A division bench of the Bombay high court comprising Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale, while quashing the FIR, said, “On the proper interpretation of Sections 101, 102 and 103 of the Trademark Act, it becomes clear that in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the mere use of the registered trademark of the Sakal Media Group in articles authored by the petitioner and published by the news portal ‘Newslaundry’, do not fit into the definition of the false application of the trademark in relation to goods or services. Therefore, in the absence of ingredients of the offence being made out, even on admitted facts, the First Information Report could not have been registered…”

The complaint was registered at Vishrambaug police station on September 16, 2020, for an offence under Section 103 of the Trademark Act.

The Sakal Group had contended that the petitioner (Goyal) had committed an offence under Section 103 of the aforesaid Act by falsely applying the trademark of Sakal Group in two articles authored by him and published in “Newslaundry” on 27/03/2020 and 11/06/2020. The respondent argued that these were highly defamatory articles against the Sakal Media Group and that use of the official trademark of the Sakal Media Group and Sakal Times on these articles resulted in an offence under Section 103 of the Act.

Prior to lodging the complaint, a legal notice was sent to the petitioner on June 12, 2020, alleging that the Sakal Media Group was defamed by him and an amount of Rs. 65,00,000. was claimed from him. On September 3, 2020, the Sakal Media Group filed a suit for injunction against the Newslaundry Media Pvt. Ltd. The suit is pending in court.

The counsels for the journalist submitted that the trademark of Sakal Media Group was shown in the articles written by the petitioner and published on the news portal ‘Newslaundry’, only to indicate those specific articles pertained to the Sakal Media Group.

Counsels for Sakal Group, Neha Prashant and Yashowardhan Deshmukh argued that the petitioner had clearly falsely applied the registered trademark of Sakal Media Group by prominently showing the mark on articles published on the news portal ‘Newslaundry’. It was submitted that when the word ‘Sakal’ was clicked on online search, it led to the said articles authored by the petitioner and published on the news portal ‘Newslaundry’, thereby demonstrating that the offence under Section 103 of the Act was indeed committed in the present case.

Asked whether Sakal Group will approach the Supreme Court, administrative officer Mahendra Pisal, who had filed the FIR, said, “It is too early to comment.”

“Justice has been done…I am happy with the high court ruling setting aside the FIR,” Goyal said.

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