The High Court here Tuesday ruled that Faiza Sdn Bhd cannot use the "ponni" label for its rice products.
Judge Datuk Azahar Mohamed made the ruling after allowing an application by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of India (APEDA) an four others to nullify the trademark used by the company.
He also ordered that the Registrar of Trademarks remove Faiza's "ponni" label from its register.
In his judgement, Azahar said 'ponni' rice was produced in the Kaveri Delta in India that Faiza did not have the right to register it as its own trademark.
"To sum up, I concluded that the entry of 'ponni' trade mark in the register of trade marks in Malaysia is an entry wrongfully made and wrongfully remaining in the registry.
"All material times, the name "ponni" was used consistently and extensively world wide and in Malaysia for a particular variety of rice originating from the trade mark region in India," he said.
He added that the 'ponni' as a result of such consistent and extensive use became distinctive of such variety of rice worldwide and Malaysia.
"The word 'ponni' is not an invented word of the Malaysian company. In Tamil the word "ponni" is gold as rice is precious and "ponni" is a recognisable name of rice variety originating from Tamil Nadu.
"The name 'ponni' does not qualify for registration as it prevents others from legitimately using the particular rice and the respondent is not entitled to register the word "ponni" as a trade mark," he said.
In their civil action filed on Jan 22, APEDA, Universiti Pertanian Tamil Nadu, two farmers from India, and business entities Visnukumar Traders Pvt.Ltd and K.K Imports and Exports had named Faiza Sdn Bhd as the respondent.
The plaintiffs wanted the court to order the "ponni" trade mark with registration number No 00007172 to be voided and removed from the Malaysian Trade Marks Registry and gazetted as such.
Faiza Sdn Bhd's marketing and sales manager Fazaruddin Ibrahim had told the court that the company received approval to use the trade mark on June 6, 2000 from the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia.
He said the company had spent a sizable sum of money to obtain the trade mark and popularise it among consumers.
He added that the company had no ulterior motives in using the trade mark and had never denied the geographical origin of "ponni" rice.
The plaintiffs were represented by counsel Karen Abraham while Faiza Sdn Bhd by counsel A. Chinnapalanidevi. -Bernama