The United Kingdom-based non-resident Indian Sandip Patel has dragged the Rs 775.4 crore (Rs 7.75 billion) Marico Industries to court over a trademark dispute related to the Sundari skin care brand.
Marico Industries acquired the Sundari brand by picking up a controlling equity interest in the United States-based Sundari LLC, an ayurvedic skin care company, in February 2003.
Marico holds 63 per cent of Sundari LLC's equity while its affiliate, Adil & Associates, holds 7.5 per cent of the equity, taking the total holding to 70.5 per cent. The remaining 29.5 per cent is held by Shantih LLC, an outfit of the founders of Sundari, and a group of private investors.
Dev Bajpai, general manager (legal) and company secretary of Marico Industries, confirmed the legal dispute and said, "In the process of the acquisition of the ayurvedic skin care business, Marico inherited an issue about the trademark Sundari in the UK."
Patel said in an emailed reply to questions that he had registered the Sundari brand in the UK and had brought it to the notice of the erstwhile management of Sundari LLC. It was learnt that Shantih LLC through its lawyer Lane & Partners had offered to settle the issue through mediation, which was later retracted.
Said Bajpai, "The erstwhile management of Sundari had initiated some action through Lane & Partners. After acquiring the business, Marico had taken up the issue with a different and sharper focus and had accordingly engaged another lawyer." Marico is now represented by Berg and Co, the solicitors.
Sundari LLC was founded in 1999 by Ayla Hussain, Cavan Mahony and Christy Turlington and reported a turnover of $1 million in 2002.
According to Marico, Sundari LLC has already secured an injunction restraining the other party from using the Sundari mark in the UK. "After suffering the injunction, the party has been inactive in pursuing the matter for vacating the injunction. Sundari is not adversely impacted in any manner as it has no restraint on carrying on any activity under the brand Sundari," Bajpai said.
"We believe that we have a strong case and we shall pursue the matter in the court till its logical conclusion," he added, but refused to discuss the issue in detail since the matter was now in a UK court of law.
Patel alleged Marico had eaten into two years of trading that he could have done. "The law in this country requires that you use your trademark within five years of registration. They have tactically tried to prevent us from using the mark so that it can be revoked on grounds of non-use," he said.