Maggi, it may seem hard to believe that a Brand/Product of a foreign multi-national company once struggled to establish itself in the minds of Indian consumers.
Maggi, 2-Minute Noodles, and the renowned logo are now household names that practically every consumer quickly remembers.
As a result, it’s no surprise that the Maggi brand has risen to the top of the Indian instant food industry. Its innovative marketing strategies, such as appealing tag lines and catchy jingles, have aided in the brand’s expansion throughout the years.
Now, Maggi has become omnipresent, transcending all barriers, and is accessible and appreciated by everyone, regardless of age or culture.
On the other hand, Maggi recently overcame a massive jolt of conjecture about the product containing unhealthy levels of MSG (monosodium glutamate, a reputedly harmful component), which was followed by a fear of counterfeit Maggi goods being disseminated in the market.
Nestle India Limited (the firm that makes Maggi instant noodles) and Societe des Produits Nestle, S.A. obtained information from a private investigator about a large-scale production and supply of bogus Maggi – 2 Minute Noodles by a group of stores and producers in West Delhi. As a result, the Nestlé group filed a permanent injunction prohibiting such producers and merchants, both known and unknown (John Doe), from infringing on Nestlé’s trademarks and intellectual works.
They further asked the court to appoint Local Commissioner(s) to seize the counterfeit Maggi 2-Minutes Noodles sold/manufactured by the defendants, who may or may not have been named in the civil plaint.
CASE: SOCIETE DES PRODUITS NESTLE SA & ANR v/s SAGAR STORE & ORS. CS(COMM) 299/2021
Plaintiff’s Claim: The Nestle Group, as the owner of the trademark (a well-known and recognisable trademark), has established tight production standards.
Since 1974, the plaintiffs have produced and distributed a wide range of culinary items in India under the name/mark MAGGI/ under stringent quality control.
In addition to common law proprietary rights, the plaintiffs have a statutory right to exclusive use of the trademark MAGGI/internationally and in India, under the TradeMark Act 1999.
The most popular products sold under the trademark MAGGI are ‘MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles,’ which are well-known around the world and have been continuously and extensively sold since the plaintiffs adopted the mark in 1983; MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles are utilised by people from all over the nation and from all avenues of life, including urban and rural areas.
As a result, it is a very well-known product in the country, with members of all social classes familiar with it; the plaintiffs have spent a significant amount of money on promotional materials and radio jingles for the product, and as a result, it has a tremendous amount of goodwill among market consumers.
MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles is sold with a very distinctive, unique, and impressionable label, packaging, get-up, and trade dress, which when combined provide a distinct visual appearance2, making it more straightforward for customers to remember;
The plaintiffs’ documentation and images plainly showed that the defendants are making and selling counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles while infringing on the plaintiffs’ registered trade name MAGGI/ as well as their copyrights in packaging, trade dress, logo artwork, and get-up.
Apart from the named defendants, several other people were manufacturing and distributing the counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles. They were unknown to the plaintiffs at the time the lawsuit was filed. It would be impracticable to restrain the illegal production and sale of counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles if a critical step was not taken against them. Because counterfeits do not adhere to the same strict hygiene standards as the original brand, consumers who consume counterfeits believing them to be genuine products will be the ones to suffer.
The Judgement: As a result, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Subramanian Prasad determined that the Plaintiffs had a prima facie case and ordered the following:
The defendants (including those who have yet to be identified) were barred from producing, selling, dealing, offering for sale, or advertising their products in packaging that resembled that of the plaintiffs;
The court-appointed Local Commissioner(s) were ordered to inventory the seized products/goods and gather the defendants’ relevant credentials/particulars; and
The confiscated pieces were supposed to be delivered to the local police station.
Samples of the confiscated goods were to be sent to laboratories for testing under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Additional action was taken against the responsible parties if it was discovered that the items did not meet the Food Safety and Standards Act’s standards.
Conclusion: This case exemplifies the Courts’ excellent zero-tolerance approach toward counterfeits. Not only do counterfeits ruin a brand’s reputation, but they also offer a significant risk to lay or under-age consumers who, unaware of the nature of the items, are likely to consume them without question, believing them to be genuine. The Hon’ble bench went even further, ordering that the order be posted on the website only a week after it was issued, in order to maintain the Plaintiff’s raids’ element of surprise and not alert the unidentified counterfeit goods manufacturers and retailers, reducing the chances of them being caught red-handed.
Disclaimer: The present article intends to provide general guidance on the subject, and you can also consult us in your specific case.