Court instructed Amazon to take down any listings (present and in the future) by unverified sellers on its platform that infringe the mark ‘ROOHAFZA’ which belongs to Hamdard National Foundation and Hamdard Dawakhana.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court vide its judgment dated 11th November, 2022 in the case of Hamdard National Foundation (India) & ANR. v. Amazon India Limited & ANR CS (COMM) 607/2022 & I.As.14189/2022, 17631/2022 instructed Amazon India Limited (hereinafter referred as “Defendant”) to take down any listings (present and in the future) that infringe the mark ‘ROOHAFZA’ which belongs to Hamdard National Foundation and Hamdard Dawakhana (hereinafter collectively referred as the “Plaintiffs”).
Defendant allowed the listing and sale of the product named ‘ROOH AFZA’ by defaulting seller M/s Royal Sales and M/s. Good Health Enterprises. Subsequently, notices were issued on 4th September, 2021 and 9th December, 2021 and the listings were removed. However, another listing by one ‘M/s. Golden Leaf’ was found by the Plaintiffs on the website of Defendant, Plaintiffs effected purchases of the said product on 6th December, 2021 and found that the said product was not manufactured by the Plaintiffs but was manufactured by Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf), Pakistan from Karachi. Moreover, the product did not comply with the legal requirements of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 (hereinafter referred as ‘LMA‘), the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, and the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred as ‘FSSAI’) which governs such products.
The Court reasoned that ‘ROOH AFZA’ is a drink for human consumption, and the quality standards have to comply with the applicable regulations prescribed by the FSSAI and LMA. The Court was surprised that an imported product was being sold on the Defendants platform without disclosing the complete details of the manufacturer. Any consumer or user on the Defendant platform is likely to confuse the ‘ROOH AFZA’ product originating from Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf), Pakistan as being connected or originating from the Plaintiffs. Until and unless the consumer actually receives the product, the consumer has no way of knowing whether the product being sold is that of the Plaintiffs or not. This can have an adverse impact on the consumers, inasmuch as the details of the sellers are not known. Since Defendant claims to be an intermediary it has an obligation to disclose the names of sellers, their contact details etc., on the product listings.
On 5th September 2022, the Court was convinced that the Plaintiffs had a prima facie case and granted an ad-interim injunction, stating the balance of convenience in the favour of the Plaintiffs and if an injunction were not granted, the irreparable injury would be caused to the Plaintiffs. The Court ordered the removal of the listings of infringing ‘ROOH AFZA’ products from the Defendant’s website as it was not originating from the Plaintiffs.
The present case highlights the interplay of various players such as manufacturers, trademark owners (Plaintiffs), intermediary (Defendant), suppliers (infringing party), and consumers in the current business ecosystem. Due to the low barrier of entry on e-commerce websites a multitude of copy-cat products are popping up that allow infringers to ‘make a quick buck’ and benefit off of the reputation of an established brand. Companies must pay close attention at all levels to prevent intellectual property rights infringement while adopting complex business models for selling and/or distributing their products. The present case serves as a reminder for businesses to safeguard their intellectual property rights by being vigilant and constantly monitoring their products, vendors, and/or distributors. Due to the abundance of information available online, it is getting harder for customers to tell the difference between authentic products and their imitations. This can often negatively impact a company’s revenue as well as its reputation. In the present case, Defendant was not only violating the statutory right of Plaintiff but also violating the legal requirement that governs the sale of this product such as LMA and FSSAI. The judgment is a step in the right direction as it sets the precedent by upholding the established law, enforces the right of Plaintiff, and ensures that the products which have not got valid licenses are not meant for consumption in India and cannot be sold through e-commerce websites.
Judgment Link: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/165339554/