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Reckitt Benckiser India Private Limited Vs. Hindustan Unilever Limited, CS(COMM) NO. 340/2021

Recently, Reckitt Benckiser India Private Limited (“Plaintiff”) filed a suit at the Delhi High Court seeking a permanent injunction restraining Hindustan Unilever Limited (“Defendant”) from telecasting or broadcasting five advertisements for its toilet cleaner #DOMEX, which allegedly disparaged the goodwill and reputation of the Plaintiff and its products under the mark #HARPIC.

The court, while examining the principles of comparative advertising, observed that any advertisement that is released must not be false, misleading, unfair or deceptive. The ‘grey areas’ in an advertisement need not necessarily be taken as serious representation of facts but only as glorifying one‘s product. However, while doing so one cannot make a statement that the product of their rival party is bad, inferior or undesirable as that would lead to denigrating or defaming the goods of the other.

The court held that the first advertisement of the Defendant simply claimed that DOMEX was a better solution, and it did not denigrate, disparage or malign the product of the plaintiff. The court further opined that an advertiser must be given enough room to play around in the advertisements and a plaintiff should not be hypersensitive to object every such advertisement. However, as regards the remaining four advertisements, the court observed that the shape of the bottle that the Defendant had used in these advertisements, claiming such bottle to be an ordinary toilet cleaner without any proof or evidence of such statement or depiction, prima facie was deceptively similar to the registered mark of the Plaintiff. Thus, the court held that these advertisements seek to disparage, denigrate and malign the product of the Plaintiff and passed an order restraining the Defendant from publishing these four advertisements.

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