Facts of the Case:

Havells India Limited, the Plaintiff, was incorporated in the year 1983 and engaged in the business of Electrical and Power Distribution Equipment. The Plaintiff had gained huge goodwill in the Indian market as well as the International market and was one of the leading companies in the sector of Fast Moving Electrical Goods Company, worldwide. The Plaintiff sells the products under most of the prestigious global brands like Havells, Crabtree, Standard, Promptec and Lloyd. The Plaintiff designed and invented the ENTICER ceiling fan in early 2014-15. The novel design was registered by the Plaintiff on 19.02.2016 bearing Design No. “280666” (“Design 2016”), after which the ENTICER range of fans was launched by the Plaintiff in the market in March 2016. As the popularity of the fans kept increasing, the Plaintiff introduced the In-Mould Design Technology to place the artistic design on the trims of the Fan while naming it as the “ENTICER ART” series. It was launched in early 2017, and received a massively positive response. Later in the year 2020, the Plaintiff launched a “NATURE SERIES (NS)”  under the “ENTICER ART” series which was inspired by nature. Due to the novel feature and design of the fan, the Plaintiff got it registered bearing Design No. “328605” with effect from 25.03.2020 (“Design 2020”). 

The cause of action arose in March, 2022, when the Plaintiff found out that Defendant No. 1, Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd., was launching a new fan series titled “VENICE PRIME” which was a clear imitation of the “ENTICER/ENTICER ART” series. Further, the Defendant No. 2 issued a catalogue in April 2022, containing the details about the launch of the “VENICE PRIME” series of fans. 

The present suit was filed by the Plaintiff seeking an interim injunction restraining the Defendants and their registered agents from manufacturing, marketing, selling, or using Design 2016 and Design 2020 for their “VENICE PRIME” series of fans in any manner, as this led to infringement and passing off and unfair competition.

Issues raised:

  • Whether Defendants are liable for infringement, passing off and unfair competition by copying the identical designs of the Plaintiff’s “ENTICER/ENTICER ART” series of fans.
  • Whether the Plaintiff has made out a prima facie case for an interim injunction. 

Laws involved:

Analysis:

The Court relied upon the cases, Castrol India Limited v. Tide Water Oil Co. (I) Ltd. and Kemp & Co. v. Prima Plastics Limited, in which the respective courts stated the tests to decide whether there is obvious imitation and/or piracy of a registered design. The Court emphasised on the principle “judged solely by the eye are the essential features present or are the two substantially different”. The Court stated that the contentions made and the judgements relied upon by Defendant No. 1 had no relevance. According to Whirlpool of India Ltd. vs. Videocon Industries Ltd., once the Court has established and concluded that there has been copying, cosmetic differences and an involved inquiry is not required. The Court in the present case has established the fact that Defendant No. 1 copied the substantially similar Design 2016 and Design 2020 of the Plaintiff’s “ENTICER/ENTICER ART” series of fans. The Defendant No. 1 argued that the Plaintiff is guilty of suppressing the material facts such as the Design 2016 was challenged by a third party, namely “Orient Electric” and relied on several judgements relating to the same. The Plaintiff responded that the said allegation was vague as a mere challenge to Design 2016 by a third party does not mean that the Design is not valid. The Plaintiff also argued that it had not received any notice from the Controller regarding the challenge made by Orient Electric, which the Court found sufficient to conclude that the Plaintiff had not suppressed facts. 

The Court found a prima facie case through the Plaintiff’s contentions and relied on the settled law of injunction laid down by the Supreme Court in the Wander Ltd. and Anr vs. Antox India Pvt. Ltd., which stated that “the Court, in restraining the Defendant from exercising, what he considers his legal right but what the Plaintiff would like to be prevented, puts into the scales, as a relevant consideration, whether the Defendant has yet to commence his enterprise or whether he has already been doing so. On this principle, the balance tilts in favour of the Plaintiff and Defendant No.1 ought to be injuncted.” The Court opined that irreparable loss would be caused to the Plaintiff if the interim injunction was not granted as Defendant No.1 was infringing the designs of the Plaintiff. 

Conclusion:

The Court passed the order of interim injunction, restraining Defendant No. 1 and its agents, dealers, retailers, representatives, assignees or anyone acting on their behalf from manufacturing, marketing, selling, or using Design 2016 and Design 2020 in any manner for their “VENICE PRIME” series of fans, which were a substantial replica of the Plaintiff’s “ENTICER/ENTICER ART” series of fans. It was further stated by the Court that the observations made were only prima facie and shall have no bearing on the final adjudication of the suit. 

Citation: Havells India Limited. vs. Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd. & Anr., decided by The High Court of Delhi on 31st May, 2022, available at https://indiankanoon.org/doc/40534452/ (last visited on 03rd June, 2022)

 


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