Passing off Action: Definition and Meaning

The plaintiff's trade name, trade mark, or other getup can be used in the passing-off action to lead potential customers to believe that his goods or company were those of the plaintiff. The tort is based on the defendant's deception. The deception is directed at potential buyers of products or services, who are encouraged to purchase the commodities believing that they are the plaintiff's. This might be accomplished by the plaintiff's use of misleading or deceptive trade names, markings, or other indicia in relation to such products or services.

What is passing off?

Passing off occur when someone intentionally or inadvertently misrepresents their products or services as belonging to another party. This type of misinformation frequently harms a person's or business's goodwill, resulting in financial or reputational harm.

In addition to straight passing off, there can be

  • Extended passing off − When a misrepresentation of a specific attribute of a product or service harms another's goodwill

  • Reverse passing off − When a merchant promotes another company's goods or services as his own.

Raising a passing off action can assist you in preventing others from using the goodwill connected with your company for their personal gain.

Essential Elements of Passing off

Three conditions must be met in order to establish passing off −

  • Goodwill − You must demonstrate that you have a 'reputation' in the market that the general public associates with your unique product or service.

  • Misrepresentation − It entails demonstrating that the trader produced confusion and fooled or misled clients into believing that their products and services were genuinely theirs.

  • Damage − You must demonstrate that the misrepresentation harm or is likely to harm your goodwill or that it caused real or predictable financial or reputational loss.

Passing off rights are gradually developed through use. Goodwill in a brand might be especially difficult to establish. The reputation and goodwill of a company are typically viewed as something that gives a company and its goods or services identity and distinguishes them from those of its competitors.

Passing off Defences

Because passing off is a strict liability offence, defending a passing off allegation can be challenging. However, proving passing off is similarly challenging.

The following are the primary defences −

  • The use of the defendant's own name

  • The Claimant cannot demonstrate adequate goodwill for use other than in the course of business.

  • The claimant's mark is not distinguishable.

  • The claimant's trademark is generic.

  • The claimant took too long to act.

  • There is no evidence of misrepresentation.

  • The claimant has suffered no loss as a result of the misrepresentation (usually difficult to show once a misrepresentation has been established).

  • The claimant agreed.

  • The claimant advocated the use of the mark.

Passing off Remedies

In a passing off action, a claimant may seek any of the following remedies:

  • An investigation to establish loss.

  • Compensation for reputation and/or profit loss.

  • Demand an accounting for the lost earnings.

  • An order to deliver or destroy the infringing items or products.

  • Injunctive relief is available (either an interim injunction if you need to act quickly or an injunction to prevent further actions that amount to passing off).

Who can file a claim for passing off?

There are no eligibility criteria for filing a passing off lawsuit. In the case of Vishwa Mitter v. OP Poddar, the court ruled that a case cannot be dismissed because the individual submitting it lacks a proper cause of action or interest in the complaint.


With the rise of competition and the expansion of the economy, trademark registration has become increasingly important. To avoid injury to one's image and goodwill, one should register the name under which he marketed his product, i.e. the trademark. However, just because someone does not register their trademark does not imply they cannot protect their rights or interests; they can do so through a concept known as “passing off”.

Passing off is a common law tort that protects the goodwill and reputation of the trade mark owners from damage caused by the defendant's deception. Passing off can be committed by utilizing the plaintiff's trade name, trademark, or other alias in order to mislead potential consumers into believing that his products or services are those of the plaintiff. The tort is based on the defendant's deception. The deception is directed at potential buyers of products or services, who are encouraged to purchase the commodities, believing that they are the plaintiffs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is “passing off” in India?

Ans. Passing off is a tort under common law that can be used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. The passing off legislation prohibits one individual from disguising his goods or services as those of another.

Q2. What kind of claim is passing off?

Ans. Passing off is related to trademark infringement in that it protects unregistered rights connected with a certain firm, its goods, or its services. Passing off proceedings can be filed in a variety of contexts, including to protect business names and "get-up" or "trade dress" aspects.

Q3. Is a case for passing off only for a registered trademark user?

Ans. No, the law of passing off covers both registered and unregistered trademark users. As a result, even if the mark has not been registered but has been used continuously, it can be protected from passing off. The aim is to prevent a company from losing money due to infringement while also protecting customers from misunderstanding.

Q4.Where should a trademark infringement suit be filed?

Ans. A case for trademark infringement can be filed in district court. This should take place in the district court covering the jurisdiction in which the individual resides, does business, or works for a living.

Q5. should a passing off case be Where filed?

Ans. A case for passing off can only be filed in the court where the defendant resides, does business, or where the cause of action originated. The cause of action may have arisen where the goods with fraudulent trademarks have been sold.