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Nestle Maggi vs. Wai Wai : Mediation for settling Trademark Disputes

April 13, 2022

Maggie-Packets
By Pranit Biswas and Sulagna Goswami

Nestle Maggi VS. Wai Wai- Case analysis

Recently Nestle had filed a suit before the Delhi High Court, inter alia contesting the comparatively similar yellow packaging adopted by the CG Foods’ Wai Wai X-press instant noodles.

It all started when CG Foods recently launched their revamped Wai Wai Instant Noodles packaging which was a huge shift from their previous green & yellow packaging. However, customers were quick to notice the shift in the colour scheme and immediately publicly noted the similarity with Nestle’s Maggi’s packaging.

maggie-packet-comparison
Further, there were purportedly instances of actual confusion in the market, when loyal consumers of Nestlé’s Maggi mistook the Wai Wai instant noodles to be Nestle’s  Maggi and reported the confusion on social media.

There were some users of Wai Wai as well, who pointed out the similarity between the packaging. Comparative snapshots of the competing product packaging are copied below –

 

maggie-packet-1
Regardless, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi referred the matter to mediation and the case has since then been settled following a successful and confidential mediation.

Court’s observation

Based on the above, once must ponder upon the fact that the very adoption of a ‘yellow packaging’ on its own was not the only trigger for the current infringement case. In fact the law does not provide rights on one singular colour. It is the combination of colours and various other attributes such as the other aspects of the trade dress including the branding and placement of the elements was the root cause.

Simple adoption of the same colour packaging would not have caused confusion amongst the general public. In fact at this date, there are multiple instant noodles sold in ‘yellow’ packaging, however they have not imitated to such an extent that not only unwary customers but also cautious customers were mistaken for a second.

Mediation in Trademark Disputes

The usage of intellectual property has increased, and as a result, conflicts have increased as well, putting a great deal of strain on the judiciary. The judiciary is swamped with huge backlog of cases and it takes years to resolve a case which prohibits the legitimate owners from using their mark correctly and to its full potential after investing a large sum of money starting from research and development to its registration.

Therefore, referring cases to mediation has been a welcome practice in trademark infringement cases which expedites the process and has immensely helped to reduce the burden on courts. In fact, Pre-Litigation Mediation is now an important requirement prior to commencement of IP suits. In India, Pre-Litigation Mediation is mandated in all commercial suits (IP cases also fall under commercial suits) under Section 12-A under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, in cases wherein no urgent relief is sought. The Pre-Litigation Mediation proceedings are initiated by the Applicant/Plaintiff by filing a formal application before the concerned Mediation Cell. The Mediation Cell appoints an independent lawyer practicing in the same court, who is also empanelled and trained by the Mediation Center of the said court. Further, in case of non-starter or when there is a failure to reach an amicable settlement despite participating in mediation proceedings, the client will have the remedy to approach the Court by filing a commercial suit. However, filing of a suit in case pre-litigation mediation is unsuccessful is not mandatory and it will remain entirely at the prerogative of the Plaintiff to proceed with filing a suit.

In fact in a recent case, Adidas had accused Forever 21 of exploiting the famous trademark of “three stripes”, however the disagreement was also settled peacefully outside the courtroom through mediation. The details of the case were kept out of the press. The case’s privacy and confidentiality were preserved as a result of this.

Therefore, any upcoming brand while deciding their product packaging or any brand while revamping their current packaging should consider the overall look and extent of similarity with the already existing products of the same category being sold in the market. What you might think as a smart move to trick the general public as to be a ‘similar’ or a cheaper alternative product might turn out to be a trademark infringement and might become the victim of the next Twitter backlash!

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India: Developing Jurisprudence on Trade Dress

 

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