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Home / Industry / Manufacturing /  Court stays sale of Videocon’s Pebble washing machine on Whirlpool plea

The Bombay high court has restrained Videocon Industries Ltd from manufacturing and selling its washing machine brand Pebble, calling it a “deceptive imitation" of Whirlpool of India Ltd’s brand of washing machines called Ace.

While Whirlpool’s 6.8 kg Ace washing machine is priced at 10,800 each, Videocon has been selling the Pebble washing machine for 8,300.

Videocon Industries has appealed the order before a divisional bench, and the matter will be heard on 3 August.

Ruling that there was a prima facie case of infringement of statutory rights of Whirlpool as Videocon is “imitating the plaintiff’s (Whirlpool) designs and also passing off the same as that of the plaintiff’s product", Justice B.R. Gavai in his 36-page order, passed on 25 July but released (written order) on 1 August, ordered Videocon to immediately recall Pebble washing machines from the market.

“The defendant (Videocon) has come with its product in June 2012 with striking similarities. If an injunction as sought is not granted, an irreparable injury would be caused to the plaintiff (Whirlpool)," the judge said.

Whirpool of India, a unit of home appliances maker Whirlpool Corp., had in June approached the high court against Videocon after it discovered the latter had introduced washing machines with a similar design.

“Creating an intellectual property, which, in this case, is a design of a washing machine, involves tremendous research and development and is a costly affair. Hence, infringement/piracy of the same should not be entertained," said Rahul Dhote, an advocate for Whirlpool.

“A washing machine costs 15,000 and we make 50 different types of machines; so them challenging one does not make a big difference. It is a very small case for us," Videocon chairman V.N. Dhoot said in an interview.

According to the order, Whirlpool had registered the design of Ace in July 2009 and is exclusively entitled to use the design till 2019.

The company has been manufacturing and selling it to consumers across the country since September 2010.

Whirlpool has sold these washing machines worth about 308 crore, the order said.

“Though there may be some similarity in the shape and configuration, the same would not amount to infringement of the plaintiff’s (Whirlpool) product," said Virag Tulzapurkar, a senior advocate representing Videocon Industries.

Sumathi Chandrasekhar, an independent lawyer, said design law constitutes the look and feel of the design and not its functionality.

“Design law is a very young law; so far, I have not encountered many cases of design infringement. This high court order is the first important order involving big companies manufacturing white goods," she said.

On Thursday, Videocon Industries gained 0.5% to close at 171.10 per on BSE, when the benchmark Sensex lost 0.19% to close at 17,224.36 points and Whirlpool of India lost 1.82% to close at 220.65.

khushboo.n@livemint.com

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