India: Comparative Advertising Permitted But Not Disparagement

Last Updated: 24 April 2008
Article by Manisha Singh Nair

The Trade Marks Act, 1999 permits comparative advertising by means of using another's trademark, however in that process the advertiser doing so cannot disparage the goods or services of another. Any such act disparaging the goods or services of another shall not only be an act constituting infringement of trademark, but also shall constitute product disparagement which covers the domain of unfair trade practices.

Lately in a high profile dispute involving FMCG majors, product disparagement was the core of the issue in comparative advertising. Reckitt and Benckiser had moved the Delhi High Court seeking restraint on the television commercial of Hindustan Unilever Limited alleging that the commercial is in bad taste and has brought discredit to its cleaning product Harpic. It was contented that the advertisement by Hindustan Unilever Limited features a toilet bowl being cleaned with a blue colour liquid and proceeds to show how blue colour cleaners are ineffective against fighting germs compared to Domex, Hindustan Unilever's product, which is white in colour. Reckitt and Benckiser claimed that Hindustan Unilever by claiming that HUL's Domex kills germs better than the blue-coloured liquid puts Harpic in bad light as the blue colour is an identifiable characteristic of Harpic so much so that it has become synonymous with its product in this category. It was further claimed that Harpic is a household name and commands a market share of 80 percent. The advertisement of Hindustan Unilever is a disparagement of the entire class of blue liquid toilet cleaners and in particular Harpic. Denying all the allegations, HUL said there was no direct attack on Harpic in the advertisement as Reckitt and Benckiser was selling its product under other colour combination also apart from blue. The court, after hearing both parties has reserved the judgement.

The law on comparative advertising and product disparagement with respect to trademarks is given in sections 29(8) and 30(1) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999. Section 29(8) enunciates situations where use of another's mark in advertising can amount to infringement, if such use does not comply with the conditions laid down under the section. At the same time, section 30(1) makes such use, an exception, if it is in accordance with the conditions provided under this section.

Trademark Act, 1999 permits comparative advertising u/s 30(1) which reads as follows:

Nothing in section 29 shall be preventing the use of registered trademark by any person with the purposes of identifying goods or services as those of the proprietor provided the use:-

  1. is in accordance with the honest practices in industrial or commercial matters, and
  2. is not such as to take unfair advantage of or be detrimental to the distinctive character or repute of the trade mark.


But with certain limitations which are provided u/s 29(8) which reads as:

A registered trademark is infringed by any advertising of that trademark if such advertising:-

  1. takes unfair advantage and is contrary to honest practices in industrial or commercial matters; or
  2. is detrimental to its distinctive character; or
  3. is against the reputation of the trademark.


Comparative advertising is productive in a state of healthy competition whereas when used with mala fide intentions, it misleads the consumers into buying the wrong products. A tradesman is entitled to boast about his product for the sole purpose of its promotion, howsoever untrue it may be, and for that purpose can even compare the advantages of his goods over the goods of others but there cannot be any mention of the disparagement of the competitor's good.

The key elements of comparative advertising law are as follows:

  • Although comparative advertising is legal, the competitor is still entitled to sue if it is targeted in an advertisement and anything said about it is false or misleading.
  • Even if the competitor is not specifically mentioned but may be identified by implication, it may be seen as the target.
  • Once the competitor is seen as the target (either by implication or by specific naming), if any fact stated or impression created is false or misleading the advertiser may be liable for damages. The competitor may also be entitled to an injunction to stop the campaign.
  • Special care must be taken in the use of a design trademark in a comparative advertisement.
  • In a comparative advertising campaign which involves the use of a competitor's trademark, the emphasis should be on promoting the product based on the differences, not the similarities, between the two products.

The intent of the legislature in enacting the aforementioned provisions is quite apparent: To impose the leniencies of permitted comparative advertising over the stringencies of trademark protection.

© Lex Orbis 2008

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Manisha Singh Nair
 
In association with
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
Accounting and Audit
Anti-trust/Competition Law
Consumer Protection
Corporate/Commercial Law
Criminal Law
Employment and HR
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment
Family and Matrimonial
Finance and Banking
Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
Government, Public Sector
Immigration
Insolvency/Bankruptcy, Re-structuring
Insurance
Intellectual Property
International Law
Law Practice Management
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
Privacy
Real Estate and Construction
Strategy
Tax
Transport
Wealth Management
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.