Mumbai: The makers of Amul ice-creams told the Bombay high court on Thursday that in many cases when a company compares its product to a rival’s in an advertisement, some disparagement is “inevitable”.
The lawyers of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which has been sued by rival Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) over a contentious Amul advertisement, said this while pointing out several previous cases.
HUL, makers of the Kwality Walls range of frozen desserts and ice-creams, has accused GCMMF, makers of Amul ice-cream, of “disparaging” its product through an ongoing ad campaign that emphasizes the regulatory difference between ice-cream and frozen dessert.
“In comparing products, some showing down is inevitable,” GCMMF’s lead counsel senior advocate Ravi Kadam said. “Just saying ‘take my product’ is not disparagement,” he said.
Kadam cited several cases to show that advertisements comparing two rival products were legal as long as they only compared features to promote one product over the other, rather than denigrate either product or ask consumers to stop using them directly.
“Comparison is beneficial to the consumer to make an informed choice,” Kadam said. “The plaintiffs should not be hypersensitive,” he said, citing a ruling from a 2010 Delhi high court case between Dabur, makers of Odomos and Godrej Sara Lee, makers of Good Knight, both ranges of mosquito repellents.
Kadam also argued that HUL could not claim Kwality Walls was disparaged unless it could show the brand name was intrinsically linked to its category, frozen desserts.
“The public should associate the plaintiff (HUL) with frozen desserts,” Kadam said. “But the plaintiff has been trying to get as far away from frozen desserts as possible, trying to show that he makes ice-cream! HUL has the Kwality Walls ice-cream, so it is piggybacking on it to sell frozen desserts as ice-cream,” he said.
HUL sells both frozen desserts and ice-creams under the Kwality Walls brand. Under Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations, ice-creams are made from milk or dairy fat while frozen desserts are those made with vegetable oil or vegetable fat.
GCMMF managing director R.S. Sodhi declined to comment, saying the matter is subjudice. An HUL spokeswoman said, “As the matter is subjudice, we have no comments to offer.”
The matter will be heard next on Monday, 17 April.