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July 22, 2020

Prior Notice Of Suit Ordered As Interim Measure In A Groundless Threats Suit

Author: Krithika Muthuraman

In the matter of Hindustan Unilever Limited v. Emami Limited [LD/VC/IA/1/2020 in LD/VC/144/2020], in which the Plaintiff alleged groundless threats by the Defendant, the Bombay High Court granted ad-interim relief to the Plaintiff vide ex-parte Order dated July 6, 2020. As per the Order, the Defendant is required to give at least 7 clear working days’ notice to the Plaintiff before initiating legal proceedings against Plaintiff’s use of the trademark ‘GLOW & HANDSOME’.

The Plaintiff claims to be the proprietor of the trademarks ‘Fair & Lovely’ and ‘Men’s Fair & Lovely’ for fairness creams. Further, the Plaintiff claims to have made a formal announcement on July 2, 2020, regarding re-branding of the aforementioned trademarks as ‘GLOW & LOVELY’ and ‘GLOW & HANDSOME’ respectively, and also claims to have had filed trademark applications for the rebranded marks (in word and stylized forms) in 2018 and 2020.

Following the rebranding announcement, the Defendant allegedly released statements in newspapers, threatening to initiate legal action against the Plaintiff for violating its alleged rights in ‘Emami Glow and Handsome’.

The Plaintiff filed the instant suit, contending that the Defendant’s statements amount to groundless threats within the meaning of Section 142 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999. The Plaintiff sought the limited ad-interim relief of a prior notice from the Defendant, if the Defendant were to initiate any proceedings against the Plaintiff, as threatened.

Considering the evidence on record, the Court was of the prima facie view that the Plaintiff is the prior adopter of the mark ‘GLOW & HANDSOME’. Granting the limited ad-interim relief to the Plaintiff, the Court observed: “…The statements made by the Defendant…do amount to a threat…the Plaintiff is pressing for a limited relief that the Defendant should give at least 7 clear days prior written notice to the Plaintiff before initiating any legal proceedings in any court or claiming any interim or ad-interim reliefs against the Plaintiff as threatened in the statements issued / made on behalf of the Defendant against the Plaintiff’s use of the trade mark ‘GLOW & HANDSOME’. Considering the facts and circumstances of the present case, I believe that no harm or prejudice would be caused to the Defendant if the said limited relief is granted.”

An Appeal to the Order (granting the ad-interim relief) was preferred by the Defendant, but the same was dismissed by the Division Bench.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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