India has the world’s second largest population, its third largest economy and is the second largest producer of food after China.
India is a ‘global hotspot’ for food manufacturers, food producers, and food ingredient professionals. The country is now becoming an integral part of the global food ingredient network and supply chain. Given this trend, India has become one of the most important destinations for food investment, with the food industry growing at an annual rate of 17%. As food exports continue to increase in India, many Indian food manufacturers are required to certify that their products and ingredients are kosher.
In April 2016, Indian trademark Application Number 3243779 was filed by Mrs. Suchi Agarwal trading as AMRIT EXCLUSIF. The mark covers beverages including wine, spirits, liquors, whisky, brandy, rum, vodka, gin and Scotch all included in class 33. Ms Agarwal already has the word mark for leather goods.
Veteran Israel Trademark Attorney Neil Wilkof brought this application to my attention.
Wine is a key element in the rituals that mark the onset and end of the Jewish Sabbath and festivals, and features in life cycle events such as circumcision and wedding ceremonies. Perhaps due to its centrality, over the millenia, very stringent manufacturing and storage requirements have been developed that must be met for wine and brandy to be considered Kosher.
Neil’s problem is that the 3243779 mark is misleading in that if applied to the beverages listed, consumers would assume that the beverages are Kosher. On the other hand, no one organization should be able to prevent other manufacturers from using the work Kosher on wines that are manufactured in accordance with Jewish Law, and under bona fide Rabbinical supervision. There are a number of Indian trademarks for Halal marks including 1131733 (wordmark) and 1131732 and 1493214 which are each slightly stylized. A Moslem purchasing meat labeled as Halal would expect it to be from a clean animal that is slaughtered with a knife in accordance with Moslem practice and beverages labeled as Halal to be free from Alcohol. Similarly Jews should be able to expect wine or meat labeled as Kosher to be manufactured and stored in accordance with Jewish Law.
Neil and I have discussed the case with retired trademark expert Professor Jeremy Phillips as well as with the local Indian trademark counsel who brought the application to Neil’s attention. We all believe that there are grounds to oppose this registration under the Indian Trademark Law. The deadline for filing an Opposition is in mid-February 2017. We are happy to donate are time to this cause and I’ve reached out to the officer who handles fraud in matters of Kosher food for the Israel government.
None of us knows any Jewish licensed trademark Attorneys in India, and whilst we believe that Buddhists and Moslems will be sympathetic to the cause, we cannot expect a non-Jewish practitioner to work Pro Bono on this matter. Neil has consulted with the firm in India and it is estimated that the cost of fighting this opposition could amount to $2000 – $3000. Neil and I are willing to assist the firm pro bono as needed. If we can now find 20-30 practitioners who will each put $100 in the pot, we will have a budget for fighting this. Neil and I have agreed to put in the first couple of hundred. Please contact either of us if you’d be prepared to help.