Comparative Advertising II | The Last Word

Reckitt states, on 15.03.1979, it registered the word mark ‘HARPIC’. HUL also manufactures and markets a toilet cleaner, which is sold under the trademark ‘DOMEX’. Learned Single Judge declined Reckitt’s prayer to interdict HUL from broadcasting a TV Commercial.

It necessary, fair amount of latitude be available to advertisers. In cases where competing rights are involved, finding an apposite balance is necessary. There is an element of creativeness which finds expression in puffery and hyperbole. Freedom of such expression is a cherished facet of Article 19(1)(a). Whereas it is open for a person to exaggerate claims relating to its goods, it is not open to denigrate or disparage goods of another person. In a comparative advertisement, it is open for an advertiser to embellish qualities of its products. But, it is not open for him to claim, goods of his competitors are bad, undesirable or inferior. He cannot disparage or defame goods of his competitor.

HUL has clearly crossed the line. On a plain viewing, it is clear, Harpic does not address the problem of bad odour/foul smell. Learned Single Judge observed, Reckitt ought not be hypersensitive to an advertisement. The finding cannot be sustained.

HUL is restrained from airing the TV Commercial till disposal of the suit. We clarify, observations made, howsoever emphatic, must be read as prima facie observations.  

Hon’ble Justice Vibhu Bakhru and Hon’ble Justice Amit Mahajan of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, Reckitt Benckiser (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Hindustan Unilever Limited, [FAO(OS)(COMM) 149/2021] decided on 26.09.2022.

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