Milkfed lacks money to fight patent battle with NRI firm

November 7th, 2010 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh, Nov 7 (IANS) Due to financial constraints, Milkfed Punjab has been unable to take legal action against a company that has been selling milk products in the US and Canadian markets, using the cooperative’s brand name Verka and its logo.

Kulwinder Dhillon, a non-resident Indian in Canada, has got a patent on the Verka brand from the US and has been selling milk products like desi ghee (clarified butter), paneer (cottage cheese), dahi (yogurt) and fresh milk in American and Canadian stores.
This has marred Milkfed’s export prospects in view of patent restrictions in the US and Canada.

Milkfed first came to know about this in August 2007. But financial constraints are stopping it from fighting a legal battle against the company, Milkfed Managing Director V.K. Singh told IANS.

“We have decided to fight a legal battle against the violators but so far we could not do much because of lack of resources and finances. Fighting a case in their (US) court demands a lot of expenditure and we cannot afford it,” said Singh.

“However, we are planning how to pursue our case. We have constituted a special committee, including legal experts and consultants. They are looking into the matter and gathering all details about the case. We have already spent Rs.100,000 to Rs.200,000 into it,” he added.

Singh said they were also trying to rope in a local resident of Canada or the US who can fight the case on behalf of Milkfed.

“They got the patent around four years back. We cannot afford the court fees and other legal expenditure. So, we are looking for a local who can act as our representative there and also incur the litigation cost. He can later become our business partner under a revenue-sharing model,” he stated.

“Luckily, it has not affected the business of Milkfed as we are not exporting anything to the US or Canada. But using our brand name and logo is a clear infringement of law,” he pointed out.

Milkfed Punjab is the state’s cooperative milk producers’ federation. It came up in Punjab in 1973 to provide technical inputs to the milk producers to enhance milk production and provide an encouraging market for milk products.

Its milk products are famous in northern India. It also exports desi ghee to the Gulf countries, New Zealand and Australia.

Said S.K. Dudeja, Milkfed regional sales manager: “Patent of Verka brand was obtained by two Punjabi brothers (one of them is Kulwinder), who stay in Canada. Their father had migrated there years back. They have copied our design and style of packaging to deceive the overseas customers.”

The Verka brand was patented by Kulwinder Dhillon-owned Quality Products Inc. in California. These products bear the ‘Real California’ seal and approval from the US health department, says the company website.

Quality Products Inc. is doing brisk business and its products are very famous among the Indian-origin people who had migrated to the US.

“We are buying Verka ghee and other milk products for the last couple of years. I thought these were imported directly from Punjab,” said Aditi Sharma, a resident of Toronto, over phone.

“They are really very popular among the Indian-origin people and are available in all leading grocery stores here,” she added.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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