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Brands are the biggest source of marketing. A company protects its brands by Trade Marks since they are often the main identity of their business or their key products. If the ownership of the Trade Mark is disputed, it can disrupt the business of both the concerned parties. A brand operation can undergo huge losses and damages if the brand names of an enterprise are abused by a third party.
The most recent victim of violation of intellectual property rights is FMCG major Britannia Industries Ltd. Britannia is a prominent brand in the bakery and dairy industries. They have achieved revenues in excess of $1 billion. Their products range from bakery, dairy to breakfast options under Britannia Healthy Start brand.
Britannia Industries Ltd. filed a petition in the Madras High Court on the allegation that GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare Ltd. (GSK)’s Horlicks Nutribic had infringed their brand of NutriChoice Oat biscuits. Britannia’s claim was that the wrapper used by GSK for their brand Nuribic was a replica of Nutrichoice Oat biscuits. It was also alleged that GSK infringed Britannia’s registered Trade Mark Nutribix.
Immediately after the launch of Horlicks Nutribic, Britannia approached the Madras High Court with a stay application for restraining GSK from selling Horlicks Nutribic. In their claim, Britannia said that GSK had adopted a similar packaging style, colour scheme etc. for their brand Horlicks Nutribic to build on the reputation built by Britannia for its Nutrichoice brand, over the past 13 years.
On August 24, 2012, the Madras High Court passed an interim order, restraining GSK, its directors, employees, agents, distributors and retailers from manufacturing, selling and advertising Horlicks Nutribic. Further, they have been restrained from using the trade name ‘Nutribic’.
The sales of Nutrichoice range of products were Rs. 284 crore in 2011-12, compared with Rs. 193 crore for the year before, which marked an increase of around 47 per cent. Britannia sold 34,603 tonnes of Nutrichoice biscuits during the last financial year. GSK has been simply building on its presence in the biscuits market riding on this enormous reputation and standing of Britannia.
This is not the first time Britannia has been involved in a legal tussle with respect to their Trade Marks. US based Kraft Foods has filed a suit against Britannia for alleged Trade Mark and copyright violation of its Oreo cookie brand. In an injunction suit filed in the Delhi High Court, Kraft claimed that Britannia’s Treat-O snack copied its iconic chocolate and cream-filled sandwich cookie. It further alleged that Treat-O, with an emphasis on ‘O’, was inspired from Oreo and the specific design like florets and etchings was also copied by Britannia.
Another instance of Britannia entering into a legal tussle with a global food company was when Britannia had taken French food company Danone to a Singapore court, alleging Trade Mark infringement of its Tiger biscuit. It settled the case with Kraft since Danone sold its business to the latter.
Another brand dispute was with US cereal maker Kellogg’s where Kellogg’s tried to block Britannia from using the Tiger logo for products other than biscuits. Britannia moved to register the Tiger Trade Mark as its property globally, Kellogg’s objected stating that Tony the Tiger is its proprietary logo for breakfast cereals since 1952. Clearly, Kellogg’s sees Britannia jeopardizing their own brand, as it is using their brand outside biscuits. It is yet to be seen if there was any negotiation between the two parties.
Indeed, it is a never ending battle for any enterprise when it comes to protecting their brands.
About the Author: Ms. Madhuri Iyer, Trade Mark Attorney at Khurana & Khurana and can be reached at: Madhuri@khuranaandkhurana.com