Birla Corp contests UltraTech's copyright violation claim over use of name

Birla Corporation is contesting UltraTech Cement’s claim of copyright infringement over the use of the word ‘Ultra’ in its products. It argued that it is neither a violation of copyright, nor does UltraTech have exclusive rights over the word under dispute.

Sources aware of the development said that according to the Trade Marks Act, 1999, copyrighted words have to be used in the complete context and not in isolation. 

While UltraTech Cement has products and brands like UltraTech Concrete, UltraTech Ready Mix, and UltraCem, Birla Corporation has MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra and others.

The word in question, the sources argued, is a composite trademark where the protection of the name is provided to the entire word and not part of a trademarked word.

Birla Corporation, the sources said, is basing its case on this premise that the use of the word ‘ultra’ is not limited exclusively to UltraTech. 

Legal experts pointed out that according to the Trade Marks Act, if a trademark is registered as a series and consists of more than one feature, and if the applicant claims exclusive rights over all of the features separately, it has to seek registration for each part separately. 

On the other hand, a Birla Corporation spokesperson said: “Since the matter is sub judice, Birla Corporation won’t make any detailed statement on the dispute. However, the company is confident of defending its trademark MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra against any legal challenge.”

In August, UltraTech had moved the Bombay High Court, alleging that Birla Corporation has been infringing on its rights from July onwards after “launching” the MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra and the MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra 2.  Against UltraTech’s claim, the Birla Corporation spokesperson said: “MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra is a super-premium brand of cement which is being sold by Birla Corporation in multiple markets since early 2018. It was wrongfully alleged that Birla Corporation had started to use the trademark only in July 2019.”

The UltraTech spokesperson was not available for comments.

After the acquisition of Reliance Cement, the MP Birla Group’s flagship company has been heavily investing on reshaping its product category and come up with strong national brands which are led by the ‘MP Birla Cement Perfect’ brand of cement.

Moreover, its argument is also based on the fact that the word ‘ultra’ is within the scope of its own copyright, wherein it has secured the rights on the words ‘MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra’ and ‘MP Birla Cement Ultimate Ultra 2’.

The sources cited a similar instance in 2016 when UltraTech had filed a petition with the Bombay High Court against Dalmia Cement over the usage of the word ‘ultra’ in the latter’s products. The court then had ruled that the word in dispute has to be understood in combination and not in isolation.

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