By Arpit Kalra and Sulagna Goswami
It may be hard to believe, but Maggi, which is essentially a brand/product originating from a foreign multi-national corporation, had once found it difficult to establish itself in the minds of consumers in India. Today, Maggi, 2-Minute Noodles and the famous logo, are trademarks that find a place in almost every consumer’s heart and are easily recalled. As a result, it is no surprise that the Maggi brand has become the market leader in the instant foods category in India. Its strategic marketing techniques, including captivating tag lines and catchy jingles, has contributed towards boosting the brand’s growth over decades. Today, Maggi has become ubiquitous, having surpassed all boundaries, and has become accessible and enjoyed by all, irrespective of age and culture.
However, Maggi recently overcame a major jolt of speculation concerning the product containing unhealthy levels of MSG (monosodium glutamate, supposedly a potentially harmful additive), which was followed by a scare of counterfeit Maggi products being circulated in the market.
Societe des Produits Nestle, S.A and Nestle India Limited (the company manufacturing Maggi instant noodles), through a private investigator, received information regarding large scale manufacture and supply of counterfeit Maggi – 2 Minute Noodles by a group of retailers and manufacturers located in West Delhi. Consequently, the Nestlé group filed for a permanent injunction restraining such identified as well as not yet identified (John Doe) manufacturers and retailers from infringement of the trademarks and copyrighted works of Nestlé. Further, they also petitioned the court to appoint Local Commissioner(s) for seizure of the counterfeit Maggi 2-Minutes Noodles products sold/manufactured by the defendants, who may or may not have been specifically included in the suit plaint.
CASE DETAILS: SOCIETE DES PRODUITS NESTLE SA & ANR v/s SAGAR STORE & ORS. CS(COMM) 299/2021
- The Nestle Group, owner of the trademark (a well known and highly distinctive trademark) has formulated stringent norms for manufacturing their products;
- The plaintiffs have been manufacturing and selling variety of culinary products in India under the name/mark MAGGI/ ever since 1974 under strict quality controls;
- Apart from common law proprietary rights, the plaintiffs also enjoy statutory right to the exclusive use of the trade mark MAGGI/ internationally as well as in India, as conferred under the Trade Marks Act;
- The most popular products sold under the trade mark MAGGI is ‘MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles‘, known around the world and continuously and extensively sold since its adoption by the plaintiffs in the year 1983;
- MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles are consumed by people all across the country and all across different segments of society, including urban areas as well as the rural belt. Therefore, it is a very famous product in the country, and is known to every household from different social strata;
- The plaintiffs have undertaken huge financial expenditure for their promotional material and radio jingles for the said product and thereby have acquired tremendous goodwill among consumers in the market.
- MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles is sold under a highly distinctive, unique and impressionable label, packaging, get-up and trade dress, which when arranged together, render a distinctive visual appearance thereby making it easier for customer recall;
- The documents and photographs provided by the plaintiffs clearly indicated that the defendants are engaged in manufacturing counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles and are selling the same by infringing the plaintiffs’ registered trade mark MAGGI/ as well as infringing their copyrights in packaging, trade dress, logo artwork and get up;
- Apart from the identified defendants, there were several other people involved in the process of production and sale of the counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles who were unknown to the plaintiffs at the time of filing the suit. If immediate action was not taken against them as well, it would be impossible to control the illegal manufacture and sale of the counterfeit MAGGI 2-Minute Noodles;
- That production of such counterfeits do not follow strict hygiene standards s adhered to by the original brand, as a result, the consumers who are consuming the counterfeits believing them to be genuine products, will be the ones to suffer.
Accordingly, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Subramanian Prasad decided it to be a prima facie case in favor of the Plaintiffs and directed the following:
- The defendants (including those who have not yet been identified) were restrained from manufacturing and/or selling, dealing, offering for sale and/or advertising their products in packaging which imitates that of the plaintiffs;
- The Court-appointed Local Commissioner(s) were directed to draw up inventory of the seized products/goods and obtain the necessary credentials/particulars of the defendants;
- The seized goods were to be handed over to the local police stations;
- Sample of the seized goods were to be sent to the laboratories for testing under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and further action was to be initiated against the concerned persons in case it was found that the items do not conform to the standards of the Food Safety and Standards Act.
This instant case showcases the commendable no-tolerance policy of the Courts towards counterfeits. Not only do counterfeits harm the reputation of a brand, but they also pose a great threat to lay or under-age consumers, who, being unaware of the nature of the products, are likely to blindly consume them, believing them to be genuine products. The Hon’ble bench also went a step further, and instructed for the said order to be uploaded on the website only after a week of its passing, so as to preserve the element of surprise of the Plaintiff’s raids and not alert the unidentified manufacturers and retailers of the counterfeit goods, thereby reducing the chances of them being caught red-handed.
 CS(COMM) 299/2021
 CS(COMM) 299/2021