• Mohan Dewan

 Tata SIA Airlines Limited (Tata SIA), a joint venture of TATA Sons Private Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited, has operated airlines under the VISTARA mark since 2014, and is the registered proprietor of the mark in India (TM Nos. 2748039, multiclass application in Classes 12 and 39; and 2808332 in Class 39), Singapore (40201600325Q in Classes 12 and 39), and among other countries. Pilot18 Aviation Book Store (Pilot18) operates an aviation studies portal called pilot18.com.

In February 2019, Tata SIA found that Pilot18 was selling products such as badges, name tags, and other accessories under the VISTARA brand through its own website and various e-commerce portals, including Amazon and Snapdeal.

Upon investigation, Tata SIA noted that Pilot18 falsely claimed to be supplying VISTARA-branded aviation products to Vistara Airlines as well. Tata SIA therefore filed a suit against Pilot18 at the Delhi High Court. Tata SIA Airlines Limited v. M/s Pilot18 Aviation Book Store & Anr., CS (COMM) 156/2019.

In March 2019, the court restrained Pilot18 from manufacturing or selling products under the VISTARA mark or any other similar marks. Pilot18 denied manufacturing or selling any such products. The local commissioner who was appointed to inspect the defendant’s premises found a large number of products bearing the VISTARA mark. In addition, Pilot18 was found to be selling products bearing marks of other airline companies, such as Jet Airways, SpiceJet, and Air India. The proprietor of Pilot18 then admitted selling such products. He also stated that he was unaware that selling these products was prohibited by law.

The Court, in its order dated August 5, 2019, observed that sale of merchandise with names of various airlines not only violates trademark rights of the respective parties, but also poses a grave threat to airport security, as unauthorized persons may enter airports using counterfeit badges, labels, uniforms, and the like. The court also observed that VISTARA is a distinctive mark that enjoys enormous goodwill and reputation in the airline, travel, and tourism industry and deserves to be declared as a well-known mark. Pilot18 was directed to pay INR 2 lakhs (approximately US $2,773) as costs to Tata SIA within one month. It also permanently restrained Pilot18 from using the VISTARA mark.

Further, the Court observed that the defendant’s statement, that it does not sell any products bearing the VISTARA mark, was false and constitutes perjury. The Court is yet to decide if it will take any action against the defendant for making false statements before the court.

This article first appeared in the INTA Bulletin and was reprinted with permission from the International Trademark Association (INTA).


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