The Delhi High Court has issued a restraining order against Dabur, an Indian multinational consumer goods company, prohibiting the circulation of its WhatsApp advertisement featuring Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone for "Dabur Amla Hair Oil."
A single-judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla passed the order in response to a lawsuit filed by Marico Limited seeking an ad interim injunction to prevent Dabur from circulating or forwarding its WhatsApp and print advertisements for Amla hair oil.
It also claimed that Dabur's advertisement disparaged the reputation and goodwill of its product, "Nihar Natural Shanti Badam Amla Hair Oil," and its registered "Nihar" trademarks.
The court stated that Marico failed to establish a prima facie case against the print advertisement but did demonstrate a prima facie case regarding the WhatsApp message/advertisement.
Regarding the print advertisement, Marico argued that Dabur's opening statement, "Yaad Rakhna, Sasta Amla, balo ko mehenga padega" (Remember, cheap Amla will cost your hair a lot), was alarming and threatened consumers, suggesting that other inexpensive Amla hair oils were inferior and harmful calling it generic disparagement.
While the court declined to injunct the print advertisement, it restrained Dabur and its associates from circulating the WhatsApp message or advertisement for Amla hair oil during the pendency of Marico's lawsuit.
Regarding the absence of any explicit reference to Marico in the challenged print advertisement, the court stated that any such reference would require a leap of imagination, which it deemed unwarranted.
The court viewed the advertisement as merely suggesting potential negative consequences of using cheaper Amla hair oils in terms of quality and price.
Justice Chawla also emphasised that an advertisement should be evaluated from the perspective of an ordinary consumer, who would likely view it as a puffery rather than from the standpoint of a sensitive competitor like Marico.
The court concluded that the advertisement merely expressed an opinion that purchasing cheaper Amla hair oil might be harmful to the hair, but it was not defamatory towards all hair oils of lower price compared to Marico's product.
Regarding the circulation of the challenged WhatsApp advertisement, the court noted that the ordinary consumer would not have access to both the WhatsApp message/advertisement and the print advertisement simultaneously. The connection between the two could only be made by individuals who received the WhatsApp advertisement alongside the print advertisement.
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