2 August 2013Asia-Pacific

IPAB throws out Indian Vega trademarks

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board in Chennai has cancelled two trademarks associated with versions of Viagra.

The decision concludes a long battle between Indian pharmaceutical companies HAB Pharmaceuticals & Research Limited and Vee Excel Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd which had filed cross suits against each other.

The companies each produce and market their own versions of sildenafil citrate tablets to treat erectile dysfunction.

In the first suit, HAB claimed that Vee Excel’s ‘Vega Asia’ trademark infringed its ‘Vegah Tablets’ mark, saying it was similar and had been registered fraudulently. Vee Excel counterclaimed that ‘Vegah Tablets’ was similar to its own trademark, and that it should be revoked.

On July 31, the appellate board found that Vee Excel could have only started using the 'Vega Asia' mark in September 2002, after it received its drug license. It had applied for the mark in April 2002.

HAB had been using ‘Vega’, Vega 50’ and ‘Vega 100’ since 2001, though the ‘Vegah Tablets’ name had only been used since 2002.

The board agreed HAB was the prior user of ‘Vega’, and that Vee’s ‘Vega’ is very similar to ‘Vegah’, though ‘Vegah’ was the mark at dispute. The board ordered ‘Vegah’ to be cancelled as well as Vee Excel’s ‘Vega’ mark.

Justice Prabha Sridevan said in the judgment: “There is no dispute as regards the date of user as of the year 2001 by the HAB for the trade mark VEGA.  In respect of this HAB is prior in use. But here, we are concerned with the trade mark VEGAH TABLETS impugned herein for which there is no user proved.”

Abida Chaudri, senior trademark practitioner at Baker & McKenzie in London, said that Indian trademark law has some similarities with the old, pre-Europe UK trademark law, and that if this case were fought in Europe, it would have been argued whether ‘Vega’ constituted use of ‘Vegah’: “I can’t see any reference to the argument that Vega constituted use of Vegah,” she said. “Certainly if it had been a European case I would have expected to see that argument to run quite strongly.”

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