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FMCG companies like Asian Paints, Pidilite, Emami take legal route for trademark infringement

MUMBAI: With smaller rivals gnawing away at their market share, India's leading fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are increasingly seeking court intervention to eliminate the possibility of any trademark infringement these days.

Legal counsels, representing 
FMCGcompanies such as Asian Paints, Pidilite, Emami and Dabur, have in recent months approached the courts to check imitations of their products which are freely peddled in markets. "We have become more aggressive in the past couple of years. In fact, we have opened a separate division called Brand Protection Cell, which is made up of retired police officers, and works towards hunting down such counterfeit products," says Harsh Agarwal, director ofEmami India.

Recently, Kolkata-based Emami, maker of 'Boro Plus' and other brands, moved the
Bombay High Court and got a favourable ruling against HN Pharmacy and NakodaBSE 0.21 % Enterprises; both firms were engaged in some kind of trademark violation by trying to copy Emami's popular ZanduBSE 2.18 %
 Balm, used for pain relief.

Also, the country's largest ayurvedic medicine maker Dabur IndiaBSE -0.35 % won a case in the Bombay high court against Ahmadabad-based Bajaj Herbals regarding infringement of its toothpaste brand Meswak. The court fined the promoters of Bajaj Herbals for Rs 15 lakh, asking them to pay Rs 10 lakh to Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai for the treatment of poor patients, and the rest Rs 5 lakh to Dabur India.

The Burman family, promoters of Dabur India, was also engaged in a case in Delhi High Court involving its air freshener Odonil, where a local company was camouflaging its product by calling it Odokill.

"Over the years, Dabur has taken steps to protect its brand and trademark against infringement, both in India and abroad, besides taking on spurious product manufacturers and counterfeiters," said Ashok Jain, VP-Finance & Company Secretary, at Dabur India. India's largest paint company 
Asian PaintsBSE 1.24 % also had its share of trouble when lesser-known Oriental Oil and Paint tried to sell its product by calling it Jay Utsav, which comes close to Asian Paint's Utsav.

Pidilite IndustriesBSE 1.59 %, the country's largest adhesive maker, known for its popular 'Fevicol', had to take court's help against Jubilant Agri & Consumer Products to protect its brands Fevicol Marin and Marin as Jubilant had applied for the registration of its Marine Plus. "As companies diversify into various product segments, in-house strategies are coined for better IP protection, particularly against the growing menace of counterfeit," said Advait Sethna, advocate and counsel, specialising in IP Laws.

"These proactive steps, coupled with IP raids by enforcement agencies against counterfeit, are helping to strengthen valuation of IP today, especially in the backdrop of the present economic slowdown," he added. Hard times require tough steps and this is a good move by domestic consumer companies, feels a senior consumer analyst of a UK-based investment banking firm. 

"In the long run, such steps pay off as even consumers become aware of genuine and fake," said the analyst, requesting anonymity. Rampant misuse of any trademark would eventually lead to its dilution, eroding the value of the brand, and companies are dead serious about protecting their intellectual property. 

Mumbai-based contract manufacturer VVF India, for instance, has approached the court to protect its bathing soap brand 'Jo', alleging that its brand is being compromised due to the "almost identical and deceptively similar" product called 'Jijo'. "Companies are trying to protect their brands by taking various steps which include raids by court-appointed commissioners and police to seize the infringing products," says Rahul Chaudhry, partner at Delhi-based IP firm Lall Lahiri & Salhotra (LLS).