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Tilaknagar rejects ABD’s claim on Mansion House brand rights

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-05-2014 Mihir Dalal

Bangalore/Mumbai: Tilaknagar Industries Ltd has rejected claims by Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd (ABD) that the latter owns 50% of the rights of the Mansion House brandy label on the basis of a commercial arrangement with UTO Nederland BV (UTO), now known as Herman Jansen Beverages Nederland BV.

Tilaknagar said in an email that it remains the sole and independent company manufacturing Mansion House liquor products in India and denied it is in negotiations with Allied Blenders to be acquired.

The Mansion House brand is crucial for Tilaknagar as it is the only successful premium brand of any meaningful scale in the company’s portfolio.

Tilaknagar said in the email that two agreements were entered on 23 February 1987 between UTO and Tilaknagar where UTO ceded ownership in the trademarks Mansion House and Savoy Club in its favour.

Tilaknagar received “a categorical reply on 24th January, 2014, from the lawyers of UTO that no such partnership or arrangement” with ABD or Kishore Chhabria or any other party has been entered into by UTO, Tilaknagar said in a written response to queries. Mint has a copy of the reply by lawyers of UTO.

In response, Allied Blenders chief executive Deepak Roy said the company owns half the Mansion House brand in India. “We have signed an agreement with Herman to own half the Mansion House brand,” Roy said.

Herman Jansen declined to comment.

Herman Jansen, owner of the Mansion House brand, had tied up with Tilaknagar for production and distribution of the brandy in India. The relationship between the two, however, soured and the Dutch firm sued Tilaknagar for allegedly breaching the terms of the partnership agreement.

The Bombay high court rejected Herman Jansen’s claims in an order passed on 22 December 2011 and Herman Jansen appealed the order. The dispute is pending.

“A dispute such as the present one will entirely hinge on whether the rights of the relevant party flow from the agreements entered into,” said Ramesh Vaidyanathan, a managing partner at law firm Advaya Legal. “If the agreements are valid and enforceable as per the law governing the agreements, it will not be open for a party to contend otherwise. It will also be relevant to examine the relevant trademark registries to verify how the ownership rights in respect of the trademarks are reflected.”

Both Tilaknagar and Allied Blenders are looking to raise cash to reduce debt, and to fund expansion, respectively.

Tilaknagar appointed Vijay Rekhi as chairman of the board of advisers earlier in May. Rekhi is a widely respected liquor industry veteran who worked with Vijay Mallya’s UB Group for over 40 years in various senior roles, including managing director of United Spirits Ltd.

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