Parle Products V/S Future Group: A Fight over Packaging/labels
In an action for infringement and passing off by Parle Products Pvt. Ltd & Anr., against Future Consumer Ltd. & Ors., Bombay High Court passes ad-interim order against the Future Group for blatantly copying Plaintiffs’ Packaging/labels.
Facts of the case
The plaintiff Parle Products Pvt. Ltd & Anr. are carrying on the business of manufacturing and selling of biscuits including but not limited to confectionaries, wafers, cakes, etc. The plaintiff has been recognized as the most chosen fast-moving consumer goods or FMCG brand since 2010. The plaintiff started manufacturing and marketing biscuits under the marks “MONACO”, “KRACKJACK” and “HIDE & SEEK in the years 1939, 1971 and 1996 respectively. The plaintiff further in order to secure the rights has applied for trademark registration in respect of the same under the Trade Marks Act, 1999.
In the years 2013, 2014, and 2017 the plaintiff created the latest packaging used in respect of its product “MONACO”, “KRACKJACK” and “HIDE & SEEK” respectively. The plaintiff has been openly, continuously, and extensively using Plaintiffs’ Packaging, upon and in respect of their goods in India. The plaintiff has further taken efforts to popularize their products and as a result, their packaging has become distinctive of the plaintiff’s goods.
In the month of September 2020, plaintiff came across Defendants’ impugned biscuits bearing the marks “CrackO”, “Kracker King” and “Peek-a-Boo” having trade dresses/packaging/labels which are identical with and/or deceptively similar to and/or substantial reproduction of Plaintiffs’ Packaging. The counsel for the plaintiff submitted that Defendants have copied each and every element of Plaintiffs’ Packaging including the layout, colour combination, placement, and all distinctive elements and features of Plaintiffs’ Packaging to the last millimeter. He further submitted that Defendants’ use of the impugned trade dresses/packaging/labels amounts to infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyright and passing off.
Findings of the Court
The court after hearing the submission made by both the parties find that plaintiff’s packaging in respect of their “MONACO”, “KRACKJACK” and “HIDE & SEEK” products have acquired goodwill and reputation in the market. He states that there is no doubt that the rival labels are being used for identical products under nearly identical packaging and trade dresses. He further states that the similarity in the rival packaging/labels cannot be a matter of coincidence.
Based on their findings, the court held that there is a strong prima facie case for the grant of ad-interim reliefs and the balance of convenience is also in favor of the plaintiffs. The court thus held that the defendant is restrained by a temporary order and injunction of this Hon’ble court from infringing Plaintiff’s copyright in Plaintiff packaging/labels and using the label or packaging or color scheme or layout or get up or trade dress that is identical or deceptive similar to the plaintiff’s packaging, label, color scheme, layout, trade dress. The court further appointed Adv. Shrinivas Bobde as the Court Commissioner and as representative of the Court Receiver to enforce the order.
It can be rightly said that the defendant in order to copying packaging/labels has violated the goodwill and reputation of the plaintiff in the market. The exclusive rights granted by the registration enable the proprietor of the registered mark to prevent others from not only using the marks registered but also marks which are deceptively similar and intend to create confusion in the minds of consumers. Here, if we could compare the packaging of the two products it is clear that they are deceptively similar. Even if we compare the mark used for the product i.e. CrackO is phonetically similar to the mark Monaco. Similarly, the mark PEEK-A-BOO has a similar meaning to the mark Hide & Seek, and KRACKER KING is only twisted from the plaintiff mark KRACKJACK. Thus the High Court was right in identifying that the rival labels are being used for identical products under nearly identical packaging and trade dresses. The case has now been listed on 27th November 2020.