No Restraining Serum Institute from Using 'Covishield' Trademark for Vaccine: Bombay HC

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused to restrain Serum Institute of India Private Limited from using the name ‘Covishield’ for its vaccine against COVID-19 noting that such an order would create confusion and disruption in the vaccine administration programme. A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and C V Bhadang dismissed an appeal filed by pharmaceutical firm Cutis Biotech claiming trademark of the name ‘Covishield’ and seeking a direction to Serum Institute of India to stop using the name for its COVID-19 vaccine.

The court in its order said it is now widely known that Covishield is a vaccine to counter coronavirus. “A temporary injunction directing Serum Institute to discontinue the use of mark ‘Covishield’ for its vaccine will cause confusion and disruption in the vaccine administration programme. In this case, thus, the grant of an injunction would have large-scale ramifications traversing beyond the parties to the suit,” the order said.

It said the Union government had rolled out an extensive vaccination drive and, as on March 16, 66 million doses of Covishield have been supplied to the Centre, while some 59 million doses have been supplied to 72 countries. The bench added that the Union government had placed a further order of 10 crore doses of Covishield.

“Serum Institute has, to date, made a sale amounting to Rs 37,507 lakh through the sale of Covishield vaccine. With these facts, the balance of convenience is not in favour of Cutis Biotech. Grant of injunction against Serum Institute would have a serious impact on its business,” the court said. The court, in its order, noted that neither Cutis Biotech nor Serum Institute have a registration for the trademark ‘Covishield’.

Cutis Biotech, a Nanded-based pharmaceutical products selling firm, had based its case on the action of Serum Institute passing off a product under the name which has been used by it (Cutis Biotech) for its products in the past. In April last year, Cutis Biotech filed an application before the concerned authority for registration of the trademark ‘Covishield’.

The name was proposed for some Ayurvedic, Allopathic, medicinal and pharmaceutical products sold by the company. Serum Institute counsel Birendra Saraf, while opposing the plea, said on June 6, 2020 that the company applied for registration of trademark ‘Covishield’ for its vaccine against coronavirus but has been using the term since March last year when it sought permission from the Union government to start clinical trials of the vaccine.

The court in its order said there is adequate evidence to show prior adoption and use, but Serum Institute has also continued its use (of the trademark) without a break, and, till date, the company had produced 60 million Covishield vaccine doses per month, of which 48 million were supplied to the Union government. The bench further said that Serum Institute had coined the word ‘Covishield’ and took substantial steps towards its development and manufacture.

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