Bombay High Court quashes FIR in Pune filed by Sakal Group against journalist

Mumbai: In a relief to a Pune-based journalist working with Newslaundry portal, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday quashed an FIR lodged against him by the Sakal Media Group for allegedly using its trademark in his articles.

A bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Manish Pitale was hearing a plea filed by Pratik Goyal (38) seeking to quash an FIR lodged against him in September last year at the best of the office bearers of Sakal Media Group.

Goyal was booked under the provisions of Trade Marks Act of 1999 for using the logos of Sakal Media group in two of his articles uploaded on Newslaundry portal.

These articles were about the laying off of staffers by Sakal Media during last year's lockdown. It also spoke about the closing down of Sakal Times, the English publication of the group.

Through advocate Yashowardhan Deshmukh, the Sakal Media Group argued that the articles were defamatory. It also argued that Goyal used the trademark in a false manner and his articles can be construed as "goods or services" as provided in the act of 1999.

Notably, the Trade Marks act disallows using of a registered trademark by anyone for his or her own goods or services.

Having considered the submissions and the material on record, the bench concluded that the two articles cannot be construed as goods or services.

"The articles cannot be said to be in the context of either ‘goods’ or ‘services’. It would have been a completely different matter if Goyal had used the registered trade mark of Sakal Media Group to portray as if the news portal (Newslaundry) itself was that of Sakal Media Group," the bench held.

"It is an admitted position that the articles were published in the online news portal ‘Newslaundry’ and there was no suggestion that the said news portal itself was that of ‘Sakal," the judges added.

"Mere use of the registered trademark of the Sakal Media Group in articles authored by Goyal and published by the news portal ‘Newslaundry’, do not fit into the definition of false application of the trade mark in relation to goods or services. Therefore, in the absence of ingredients of the offence being made out, even on admitted facts, the FIR could not have been registered," the judges held.

The judges further said the articles might be subject matter of an injunction suit at the behest of Sakal Media Group due to the contents of the said articles. "But that falls within the realm of a civil dispute that could be raised by the group," the bench said.

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