High court of judicature of Bombay: “The Company’s Principal Place of Business and Registered Office is significant”

Case Title:- Prince Pipes and Fittings Ltd. Versus Shree Sai Plast Pvt.Ltd

Case No:- Interim application (L) No.2548 of 2024 in Commercial IP suit (L) No.27330 of 2023

Decided on:- 14th March,2024.

Quorum:- Bharati Dangre, J

Facts of the case:-

In the Commercial Suit filed by the plaintiff against the defendant for infringement of trademark, copyright and passing off the defendant, Shree Sai Pvt. Ltd., filed the interim application claiming that the defendant is involved in infringing activities and is trying to capitalize on the goodwill and reputation of the plaintiff and that as a result of its act, the plaintiff has suffered irreversible loss, injury, damage and harm. In the meantime the defendant has filed an interim application in accordance with Order VII Rule 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure requesting the return of the lawsuit that the plaintiff filed. Submitted to the court, where it ought to have been filed. Following the objection raised by the plaintiff’s learned counsel, Mr. Khandekar, that the Bombay High Court (Original Side) Rules, 1980 did not allow the provision under Order VII Rule 10 to be invoked and that instead the provision to be invoked is in the form of Rule 283 the learned counsel Mr. Kirpekar, requested that this application be treated as one under Rule 283. The application is handled as if it were filed under Rule 283 because I believe the authority to be used under Section 283 is similar to that which is available under Order VII Rule 10. The relief of return to the plaint is based on the claim that the plaintiff registered office at the time of the suit which was filed in Goa, as shown by the plaintiff’s incorporation certificate and even by the ROC record. It is argued that the company’s registered office serves as its major place of business and as a result, the registered owner of the trademark may initiate a lawsuit for infringement at that location. The plaintiff in the event is in a company which was officially recognized under the Companies Act, as long as the company maintains its registered office. Therefore, the suit is requested to be returned on the grounds that this court lacks the authority to try consider and decide the current status.

Plaintiff Contentions :-

The Plaintiff/Appellant, filed a suit seeking relief against Defendant No.1 so as to prevent infringement of its rights, without obtaining the license. The Defendant owned Cinema Halls in Mumbai, Maharashtra where infringement is alleged and the entire cause of action as alleged in plaint arose in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The Civil Suit was filed in the High court of Delhi by virtue of the fact that the branch office of the Plaintiff is situated at Delhi and the Plaintiff is carrying on business at Delhi, though its head office is situated at Mumbai. The objection was raised by the Defendant with regard to the territorial jurisdiction of the Court at Delhi and the Single Bench and Division Bench of the High Court upheld the objection and held that the suit should have been filed, in the facts of the case, in the court at Mumbai. Mr. Kirpekar’s submission that the susceptible misuse by creation of additional forum must be adverted by him, specifically in the facts of the case he heard the learned counsel Mr. Alankar Kirpekar for the Applicant, who would place reliance upon the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Indian Performing Rights Society Ltd. Vs. Sanjay Dalia & Ors. (citation) as well as decision of this Court (G.S. Patel,J)Dated 15.06.2016 on Notice of motion in the case of Manugraph India Limited vs. Simarq Technologies Pvt. Ltd. & Ors., where a comparisons drawn between Section 134(2) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and Section 62(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957 as against Section 20 of the CPC and it Is the submission of Mr. Kirpekar that the Plaintiff has registered office in Goa though it may carry its business in Mumbai and the Defendant is situated in Patna as it is a company incorporated in Bihar and, therefore, the suit ought to have been filed either at Goa i.e. At the place where registered office of the company is located or the place where the Defendant is carrying business. Drawing inference from the decisions on which he has placed reliance, Mr.Kirpekar would submit that the company of the Plaintiff can exercise three choices, while it decides to institute the proceedings for infringement of Trade marks/Copyright and the choices available according to him are ; the suit can be filed at the place where registered office of the Company is situated, or at the place where the Defendant is situated and the third choice which is available according to Mr. Kirpekar as per Section 134(2) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, that the place where the company carried on business. According to him, an additional forum is created by virtue of the said provision, but it is Likely to be misused by the companies, like that the Plaintiff, which are conglomerates and have their branch offices or sub offices at difference places, leaving it open to file suit at any of his places where the business is transacted and taking the Defendant for a right.

Respondent Contentions:-

Learned counsel for respondents drew the attention of the Court by Mr. Kirpeka to the conclusion derived by G.S. Patel, J in the case of Manugraph India Limited (supra) and in particular Para 36 (d), which reads to the following effect :-“The Section 134(2) and Section 62(2) privilege or advantage attaches to the registered office or principal place of work. It is a privilege not to be used by abandoning the registered office sites abandoning the Section 20 sites options and travelling to some remote location where there is neither defendant nor cause of action. That is the mischief addressed in Sanjay Dalia. To illustrate : The defendant is in Delhi. The cause of action arose in Delhi. The plaintiff also has another branch office in Port Blair. A plaintiff can sue in Mumbai or in Delhi, but not in Port Blair.” Opposing him, Mr. Khandekar, would invite his attention to Clause 67 of the Plaint and it is his specific submission that the Plaintiff has specifically described itself as a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956, having its principal place of business at, the Ruby, 8th Floor, 29, Senapati Bapat Marg, Dadar (W), Mumbai, Maharashtra and by inviting his attention to the plaint, he would submit that the Plaintiff has pleaded that its principal place of business is in Mumbai, whilst it is interlaid engaged in manufacturing and export of pipes in India, it being incorporated in the year 1987. Mr.Khandekar would submit that the Defendant is proceeding on a premise that the principal place of business is synonym to the registered office and that is why the Defendant is relying upon the decision in the case of Manugraph India Limited (supra) and attempting to draw a parlance with a registered office of the company. According to Mr. Khandekar, a registered office of the Petitioner is in Goa, but its principal place of business is in Mumbai and the Plaint has specifically set out the details of the business activity carried out by the Plaintiff from Mumbai. He would place reliance upon the decision of Calcutta High Court in the case of India Glycols Ltd & Ant. Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax and Another, (citation) to buttress his submission that the principal place of business may or may not be a registered place of business.

Court Analysis and Judgement

The court said that registered office of the Company must necessarily be the principal place of its business and this misconception must be cleared. The principal place of business need not be equated, every time With registered office, as the principal place of business of the company is the place wherefrom the company controls its business activities i.e. Where the center of power of corporate body is located. It is quite possible that principal place of business is also its registered office, but it may not be true in every scenario. The principal place of business at times may not be the registered place of business, as the principal place may be distinct from its registered place as the former is the place from where the entire company business is controlled. On this misconception being removed, I do not think that there is any reason for addressing the grievance by Mr. Kirpekar. Admittedly, since the Plaintiff has Mumbai as its place of business, the application filed by the Defendant is without merit and is dismissed.

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Judgement Analysis Written by – K.Immey Grace

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