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Supreme Court dismisses ITC plea against Maggi Noodles, says magic masala or magical masala can’t be trademarked

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The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed ITC Limited’s Yippee Masala Noodles plea challenging the order of the Madras High Court, where the High Court refused to prohibit Nestle India Ltd’s Maggi Masala Noodles from using the expressions Magic Masala, Magical Masala with respect to its instant noodles.

The bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice M.R. Shah refused to interfere with the order passed by the division bench and stated that in this very plea, the words which are specifically challenged are not the trademark of ITC Limited. In fact anybody can use the words ‘Magic’, ’Masala’ or ‘Magic Masala’ as this was not a trademark belonging to ITC and their trademark was altogether different.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, counsel appearing for the petitioner, contended that he was referring to the phonetic confusion which is created in the minds of the public while purchasing the said product.

The counsel submitted that the evidence submitted on the same were not accepted and that his case is quite different regarding the phonetic confusion, which is a matter of first impression on general public.

Salve argued that these products are not sold or bought by their trademark word or name. The general public refers to these product by different names like two-minutes noodles, masala noodles, atta/wheat noodles etc. Though their product name or the trademark is different one being Yippee and other being Maggi. The buyer doesn’t come and say Maggi or Yippee instead they buy the product by its ingredient’s name like masala noodles.

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Salve contended further there would have been no confusion if the products were bought by their trademark name, Yippee or Maggi. Although the High Court held that this is not a matter of evidence and dishonoured two of three witnesses, and in his humble opinion, the findings of the bench was incorrect.

The bench was not satisfied with the submission of Salve, hence the bench noted that whether masala or non-masala were a mere subdivisions and the loyalty of the buyers/ consumers lies with the names Maggi and Yippee.

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The bench dismissed the petition while keeping the demographics of the consumers of the two products in view, the bench did not find any merits in the contentions of  Salve, hence dismissed the SLP.

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