Amul says enough is enough: stop milking my brand

Not happy.
Not happy.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave
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Amul, India’s largest dairy cooperative, is angry with trademark authorities for letting other firms get away with using its brand name.

Amul Dairy and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets dairy products under the Amul brand, have filed a case in the Gujarat high court on Dec. 26 against five trademark registry offices in the country: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad. These registries, it alleges, have failed to act against those using its name, or similar-sounding brand names, to promote their products, The Economic Times newspaper reported on Dec. 27.

“Amul has been recognised by trademark authorities as a well-known brand. It cannot be registered in any (other) category,” RS Sodhi, managing director, GCMMF, told Quartz. He was referring to a 2015 notification by India’s Intellectual Property Appellate, a legal entity that looks into such disputes. ”This means authorities cannot entertain any application from anybody under the Amul brand name (or logo) in any category,” he added.

Amul, popular for its milk, butter, cheese, ghee (clarified butter), and chocolates, is a household name across India and retails through millions of outlets. It registered a turnover of Rs27,043 crore (pdf) in the last financial year. Its size and scale makes the Amul brand susceptible to infringement. And the five trademark authorities have been accepting applications from others for the registration of the Amul brand name, Sodhi said. These “others” include bakers, garment makers, and mineral water firms.

In 2013, Amul won a case against a West Bengal-based dairy cooperative over the sale of “Imul” brand of milk. Another Kolkata company even now sells a range of inner-wear products under the Amul brand name. ”Litigation with each of these companies takes time. That is why we are now seeking to restrain the trademark registries from entertaining any application for the Amul brand name,” Sodhi said.

Formed in 1948 in Gujarat’s Anand, Amul began as the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union. Over the years, it became the backbone of India’s “White Revolution,” turning the country into one of the world’s largest milk producers. Today, the GCMMF works with 3.6 million milk farmers, procuring 18 million litres of milk daily, making it the world’s 13th largest dairy organisation.