HUL wins ice cream ad lawsuit against Amul in Bombay high court
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Mumbai: Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) on Friday won a lawsuit it filed in the Bombay high court against the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), owner of the Amul brand, for airing ads that it said disparaged frozen desserts.
HUL, India’s largest packaged consumer products maker, produces the Kwality Wall’s brand of frozen desserts and ice-creams.
A single-judge bench comprising justice S.J. Kathawalla granted HUL’s plea for an injunction against the advertisements that Amul began airing in March. The court also denied GCMMF’s plea for a stay on the order.
The plea was granted on grounds that the ads disparaged the entire category of frozen desserts in which Kwality Wall’s is the leader.
“This court having come to the conclusion that defendant No. 1 is guilty of disparaging the rival product, i.e. frozen desserts by making false statements of facts with regard to the same and also indulging in a negative campaign and also asking the consumers not to have frozen desserts but instead have the product of defendant No.1, i.e. Amul ice-cream, which is not permissible in law, the question of granting any stay on the order does not arise. The application for stay is therefore rejected,” justice Kathawalla said.
“This would mean that the court has asked Amul to stop airing the advertisement effective immediately,” said Nishad Nadkarni, associate partner at Khaitan and Co. and advisor to HUL in the case.
Justice Kathawalla also refused to suggest changes to the ads, saying that “the disparaging manner in which the impugned TVCs are made/prepared, it is in any event not possible to direct/order/suggest any modification/s to the same”.
“We are pleased that the Honourable Bombay high court while injuncting Amul’s advertisement has agreed with HUL’s contention that Amul’s advertisement is false, misleading consumers and disparages frozen desserts,” Sudhir Sitapati, executive director-refreshments, HUL, said in an emailed statement.
“Kwality Wall’s products are made with milk/milk solids and do not contain vanaspati. In fact, our frozen dessert products use milk without cholesterol to offer healthy and exciting choices to consumers,” he added.
GCMMF managing director R.S. Sodhi did not respond to a request for comment.
In March, Amul launched an ad campaign for its Amul brand of ice-creams that emphasized the difference between ice-creams (made from milk fat) and frozen desserts (made from vegetable oil). These definitions based on ingredients are as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India norms.
Amul’s ads urged customers to choose ice-creams over frozen desserts, claiming that the latter were made with vanaspati tel or vegetable oil.
Soon after, HUL filed a lawsuit in the Bombay high court asking that Amul be stopped from airing the ads and ordered to pay damages.
HUL argued that as Kwality Wall’s was the largest frozen dessert brand in India, it was directly hit by Amul’s advertisement even though the films did not refer to it by name.