The Bombay High Court on Friday restrained popular brand Amul from telecasting advertisements found to be disparaging a product — frozen desserts — of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL). HUL had filed a suit before the Bombay High Court in March 2017, stating that its brand Kwality Walls was the market leader in the frozen desserts category. The suit claimed that the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which markets Amul ice creams, was spreading false and malicious information about frozen desserts through its ad campaigns and commercials, thereby disparaging the brand.
The court perused several previous judgments involving various brands, including Dabur India vs Colgate, Godrej vs Initiative Media, Eureka Forbes vs Pentair, to examine the laws that amount to disparagement, and restrained Amul from telecasting the advertisements.
HUL, through its counsel Virag Tulzapurkar, had submitted the said television commercials along with their transcripts before the court. The ad shows a child being discouraged from having frozen dessert “because it contains vanaspati oil, which is bad for health”.
The suit states that the defendant (Amul) has misled the consumers by saying that Amul ice cream contains pure milk whereas frozen desserts contain the harmful vanaspati. The plaintiff submitted that the ice cream contains edible vegetable oil and not the hydrogenated one (vanaspati), as being showcased by the defendent. The plaintiff went on to add that this was slander of goods and malicious falsehood and would adversely affect its market.
A single bench of Justice S J Kathawalla, which was hearing the suit, had in the earlier hearings given a few suggestions to make changes to the advertisement. However, the judge concluded that the advertisements indicated they had been prepared to disparage frozen desserts by putting a scare in the mind of the consumers.
In the 87-page judgment, Justice Kathawalla observed: “From the content, intent, manner and storyline of both the TVCs it is clear that Defendant No. 1 seeks to take undue advantage of the perception of the public that Vanaspati is bad for health and creates a false impression that all Frozen Desserts are made using Vanaspati and are consequently not pure, inferior, bad for health and not the correct choice, i.e. should not be consumed by the public who should instead have the product of the Defendant No.1, i.e. ice cream.”
The judgment added that the campaigns disparaged the products sold by HUL and could also adversely affect the business of the plaintiff.