Court imposes costs on defendant who stayed away from the proceedings

This note briefly discusses the summary judgement passed by the Delhi High Court in a trademark infringement suit and imposing costs on the Defendant who deliberately refrained from taking part in the court proceedings.

The Plaintiff, Whitehat Education Technology Private Limited filed the suit against the Defendant, Vinay Kumar Singh to restrain the latter from using the mark ‘Whitehat’ in relation to their business.

Facts in a nutshell

  1. Plaintiff runs an edu-tech startup that teaches coding to children, through its online platform. They develop the curriculum and impart lessons through live interactive online classes, offering flexibility for children to learn coding online and encourages children to develop apps, games, and animation.
  2. They registered the domain name www.whitehatjr.com in May 2018, and gained popularity through its followers on social media pages such as Instagram and Youtube.
  3. The Plaintiff’s ‘WHITEHAT’ mark is registered in several classes including in class 38, and they use the marks, , , in relation to their business.
  4. The Defendant is providing services related to digital and online marketing, web development, and search engine optimization (SEO).
  5. In October 2022, Plaintiff became aware of the Defendant having registered a domain www.whitehatsr.in and using the logo . The adoption of the logo by the Defendant’s which is deceptively similar to the Plaintiff’s logo is clearly to deceive the customers.
  6. The warning letter addressed by the Plaintiff asking to cease use of the mark was not acted upon by the Defendant as they contended that the marks are not similar, and the parties are dealing in different line of business which led to the filing of the suit.

The High Court at the admission stage was pleased to grant an ex-prate injunction restraining the Defendant from using the marks and or any other deceptively similar variant thereof as a trademark, tradename, domain name, as a part of its email address/es or in any other manner which amounts to infringement of the Plaintiff’s trademarks. Despite service of the court notice Defendant did not enter appearance and contest the matter. However, at that stage they addressed a letter to the Plaintiff that they unaware that their activities amount to infringement, further confirming that they have brought down the website www.whitehatsr.in, and assured compliance.

The Plaintiff thereafter sought summary judgement under Order XIII A of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) which permits the court to pass summary judgement if the Defendant has no real prospect of succeeding in the suit.

The court after considering the Plaintiff’s application under Order XIII A held as follows:

  1. ‘WHITEHAT JR’ is a registered trademark of the Plaintiff which has acquired reputation on account of extensive use over a short period of time. The impugned mark of the Defendant, as well as the writing style of the letter is virtually identical to the Plaintiff’s writing style . Moreover, the correspondence between the parties’ evidence that the Defendant does not intend to contest the matter.
  2. In light of the above and the fact that the Defendant has no prospect of succeeding in the suit the Court granted summary judgement permanently restraining them from using the mark or or any mark identical or deceptively similar variant of the Plaintiff’s trademark and tradename ‘WHITEHAT JR’.
  3. The Court while decreeing the suit also imposed costs of Rs. 924,000/- (approx. US $ 11,000) on the Defendant considering that it did not cease its infringing activities despite being put on notice and the further fact that they deliberately stayed from the court proceedings.

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