In a recent legal battle that has grabbed the attention and views of the whole Indian beverage industry, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court has issued a significant and kind of landmark ruling, restraining Parle Agro from using the tagline ‘FOR THE BOLD’ as the predominant and initial part of their advertising for ‘B Fizz.’ This injunction came forward as a result of the lawsuit filed by a well-known beverage giant PepsiCo, which alleged trademark infringement as well as unfair competition. Furthermore, this development of the lawsuit has not only created ripples in the competitive beverage market but also raised some of the very important questions about intellectual property rights and branding strategies. “In the event of any fresh advertising campaign, or advertisement, by Parle, which uses “For The Bold” as its dominant/predominant part, PepsiCo would be entitled to move this Court by means of an interlocutory application in the present suit, seeking injunctive reliefs,” the court said
SETTING CONTEXT OF THE CASE
The story of this case initially began when Parle Agro the defendants in the present case introduced ‘B Fizz,’ a carbonated beverage that posed itself as a refreshing and bold choice for the consumers. What caught PepsiCo’s the plaintiff’s herein attention was the tagline used by the defendants in ‘B Fizz’s’ advertising campaign – ‘For The Bold.’ They got to know by November 2020 that Parle Agro had launched such a product with this tagline in India. PepsiCo strongly believed that this tagline bore a striking similarity to their own famous tagline, ‘For The Bold, The Young, The Original,’ which is associated with one of the most popular soft drinks, Pepsi.
PepsiCo had initially launched a global marketing campaign under the tagline and aegis “For The Bold” to encourage consumers of DORITOS to live boldly by seizing the moments in life and breaking out of the norm of everyday life and to further experience more and live their life in a more asserting manner. It claimed that it began using the ‘For The Bold’ tagline internationally in 2013 and in India since its introduction in 2015. On the other hand, Parle urged in its written statement that PepsiCo does not use the tagline “For The Bold” on all its packs of DORITOS chips. It came across packs of PepsiCo’s products which, instead, employ taglines such as “FOR MORE BOLD EXPERIENCES”, “SNACK BOLDLY”, “BOLD CRUNCH”, “BOLD FLAVOUR” and “DO YOU SNACK BOLD”. Parle has independently filed a rectification petition against PepsiCo’s mark “For The Bold” before the IPD bearing C.O. (COMM. IPD-TM) 5/2021, seeking cancellation of the registration of the “For The Bold” word mark granted to PepsiCo, which presently stands adjourned to 25 September 2023.
PepsiCo further alleged that the use of a nearly identical tagline by Parle Agro was not just a coincidence but actually a deliberate attempt to ride on the reputation and goodwill that Pepsi had built over the years. Furthermore, they contended that this could initially confuse all the consumers and lead them to believe that ‘B Fizz’ was somehow affiliated with PepsiCo. In response, PepsiCo filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against Parle Agro’s use of the ‘For The Bold’ tagline. What further grieved PepsiCo more was the Parle’s application seeking registration of the tagline “Be The Fizz! For The Bold!” in September, 2020, as a trademark on “proposed to be used” basis.
Justice C Hari Shankar the Hon’ble Delhi High Court judge passed the interim order in PepsiCo’s suit seeking a permanent injunction against Parle from using the tagline “For The Bold”. The suit is filed by the Plaintiff’s PepsiCo Inc. and PepsiCo India Holdings Private Limited.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, after hearing both sides’ arguments and carefully evaluating the evidence presented, issued a preliminary injunction in favor of PepsiCo. “The “Be The Fizz! For The Bold!” tagline is relegated to the border of the label, with “Be The Fizz!” in the upper half and “For The Bold!” written upside down in the lower half. “For The Bold!”, therefore, is only a part – and a somewhat insignificant one – of the impugned label of Parle. Even if it is treated as part of the “Be The Fizz! For The Bold!” tagline, it nonetheless constitutes only the latter half of the tagline,” the court said. The court further found that the ‘For The Bold’ tagline used by Parle Agro was indeed similar enough to PepsiCo’s tagline to create a likelihood of confusion among consumers.
“As used in the above Facebook advertisements, therefore, “For The Bold” constitutes an independent mark, and not merely an insignificant part of a larger label, as on the surface of the “B Fizz” bottle. As an independent mark, it is identical to the registered “For The Bold” word mark of PepsiCo. The two marks being identical, Section 29(2)(c) read with Section 29(3) would apply, and the Court is bound to presume the likelihood of confusion as a result of the use of the “For The Bold” mark by Parle. The use, by Parle, of “For The Bold” as part of its advertising campaign for its “B Fizz” beverage is, therefore, unquestionably infringing in nature,” the court further said.
The court’s decision hinged on the fundamental principles of trademark law, which protects a company’s brand identity and reputation. It ruled that Parle Agro’s use of a tagline that was so similar to PepsiCo’s could potentially harm PepsiCo’s brand by taking out the distinct feature and what initially makes it so special and further creating confusion among consumers. The court also noted that the timing of the introduction of ‘B Fizz’ and the similarity in taglines raised questions about Parle Agro’s intentions.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court’s decision to restrain the defendant from using the ‘For The Bold’ tagline as the predominant part of their advertising for ‘B Fizz’ serves as a kind reminder of the importance that trademark protection holds and also brings and throws light on the potential legal consequences that one can suffer due to branding similarities. Furthermore, it also underscores the actual competitive nature of the beverage industry, where brands must be cautious at all times to not infringe on the intellectual property rights of their competitors and rivals. This case will likely serve as a landmark and prompt companies to be more vigilant when it comes to their branding strategies and further also take proactive steps to protect their own brand identity in an increasingly competitive market.