In a recent legal spectacle before the Bombay High Court, the clash of the ‘Annas’ unfolded as two eateries grappled over the use of the name ‘Anna’ as a trade identity. The Bombay High Court (HC) refused interim relief to the proprietor of ‘Anna Idli Gruha’ (AIG) or ‘Anna Idli,’ who sought to halt a restaurant named ‘Anna’ from launching in Pune.
SS Kalasgond, a restaurateur, approached the HC in January as the plaintiff, challenging a Pune district court order from last January that refused to temporarily restrain any “infringement” of his registered trademark ‘Anna Idli.’ However, HC found that the turnover figures presented by Kalasgond for various AIG outlets, despite its 12 years of existence, did not support the claim of ‘goodwill’ or reputation, particularly in Pune, which would lead patrons to mistake ‘Anna’ for AIG.
The High Court stated that in establishing a prima facie case of passing off, the plaintiff (Kalasgond) has fallen short in meeting the three classical criteria—goodwill, representation, and damage.
Justice Sandeep Marne acknowledged that ‘Anna’ is a generic term associated with South Indian cuisine, commonly used in the trade. However, the owner of ‘Anna’ cannot use this as a defence, as they claim exclusivity through last year’s trademark registration.
The term ‘Anna’ is commonly used in southern states as a respectful way to address an elder brother or a person in a brotherly position. There seems to be a growing trend of naming eateries serving South Indian delicacies with the term ‘Anna,’ as noted by the HC through a random search result of various eateries in Mumbai.
Both eateries claimed exclusivity in the name ‘Anna,’ having registered it with the Trade Mark Registry. HC heard arguments from advocates Hiren Kamod and Ajinkya Jaibhave for Kalasgond, who contended infringement and ‘passing off’—misrepresentation to capitalize on someone else’s goodwill. Justice Marne observed that both parties were owners of registered trademarks and noted a previous submission by AIG that ‘Anna’ did not resemble its trademark before the trademark authorities.