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Fair & Lovely Trademark Dispute

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Last Updated on June 14, 2024 by Swetha LLM

Following the worldwide outcry against racial bias-promoting fairness creams, Indian companies have been renaming everything. The most well-known brand of fairness cream, Fair and Lovely, is also impacted financially by this. Most likely, this was the first popular fairness cream available. It’s advertising further claims that it can make people fairer in a matter of weeks. This brand chose to rebrand from Fair and Lovely to Glow and Lovely in response to widespread public disapproval. However, when it copies its largest rival, that rival tries to defend against it, and that’s how the Fair and Lovely trademark issue occurs.

Background

George Floyd’s death ignited the #Blacklivesmatter movement and prompted a national outcry against racial discrimination. In response, global enterprises and international businesses made the decision to decrease the discriminatory aspect of their brands. Among them was Hindustan Unilever Limited (“HUL”) in India, which changed the names of their fairness-enhancing creams from “Fair and Lovely” to “Glow and Lovely” and “Fair & Lovely for Men” to “Glow and Handsome.” Both consumers and its rival brand, Emami, expressed strong disapproval of HUL’s choice. Emami asserts that a week prior to HUL announcing its rebranding, it had rebranded its product from “Fair and Handsome” to “Glow and Handsome” and released it digitally. HUL’s decision, according to Emami, was an unfair business practice because their products now have the same brand name.

Emami and HUL have long-standing rivalry. Through commercials and marketing tactics, both companies have a history of disparaging the other. Realizing the potential of men’s fairness creams, Emami introduced its brand “Fair and Handsome” in June 2005, marking the beginning of the rift in the late 2000s. With “Fair and Lovely for Men” in 2006, HUL quickly followed suit. Both companies have been criticizing each other in advertising since a number of legal cases have been resolved.

“Glow and Lovely” to “Fair and Lovely”: The Transition

A few noteworthy aspects of the Fair and Lovely trademark conflict are listed below:

  • Emami filed a dispute over a trademark that claims infringement against Hindustan Unilever (HUL) against Fair and Lovely, a popular skincare product.
  • Emami asserted that HUL was imitating its “Glow & Handsome” product.
  • The rebranding was intended to align with a broader and more diverse definition of radiant skin, in contrast to the traditional focus on fairness.
  • HUL stated that the alteration was a result of its dedication to moving forward with a more inclusive conception of beauty that accommodates all skin tones.
  • The product name was only one aspect of the rebranding; other changes comprised compositional adjustments and marketing plan modifications.
  • The creator of “Glow & Handsome,” a skincare product, Emami, complained, saying that the product names were too similar to one another to be accepted as a trademark.

Emami is Protesting Against the Fair and Lovely, But Why?

After rebranding Fair and Lovely to Glow & Lovely, Emami, the company responsible for “Glow & Handsome,” initiated a case alleging trademark infringement against HUL, giving rise to a legal conflict over the Fair and Lovely name. The argument put forward was that HUL’s new brand could cause confusion due to the similarity of “Glow” with their product name, “Glow & Handsome.” In response to the rebranding, Emami sued, asking the court to intervene and prevent HUL from using the name “Glow & Lovely.” Until the matter was resolved, the Kolkata High Court imposed an injunction to stop HUL from using the name “Glow & Lovely”.

Emami’s protest was an attempt to guard in opposition to any possible consumer confusion or dilution of the brand identification and market presence of their product, “Glow & Handsome.” Emami expressed concerns that the product names’ closeness would affect market competition and could waver customers away with regard to their proposal and to HUL’s most recent offering.

Trademark Conflict: Fair & Lovely

The Fair & Lovely trademark dispute centres on the following points:

  • Emami sued popular skincare company Fair and Lovely for trademark violation.
  • Fair and Lovely’s manufacturer, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), faced criticism for allegedly ripping off Emami’s “Glow & Handsome” product.
  • In response to the fury, HUL changed the skincare name from Fair and Lovely to “Glow & Lovely”.
  • Emami initiated legal procedures, arguing that the change in name was insufficient and there was an ongoing trademark violation.
  • The Kolkata High Court issued a temporary injunction that forbids HUL from using the moniker “Glow & Lovely”.

So, Who, in this Case, Is Most Likely to Win?

It is premature to predict a winner, but in trademark law, priority in the use of the mark takes precedence over priority in trademark registration. In any case, the court stated that it seems plausible that HUL submitted a trademark application under the name “Glow & Handsome” in September 2018 and again in June 2020 based on the first evidence. Emami had not yet adopted the new mark, but Hindustan Unilever had begun to use it in their press releases and commercial ads.

It is noteworthy that trademark disputes are frequently resolved in favour of the entity initially using the mark. Despite threatening legal action against Hindustan Unilever, Emami would have to prove that it was the first to use the mark or to have registered it before Hindustan Unilever applied for “Glow and Handsome.”

Handling Potential Trademark Violations Without Filing a Lawsuit

Emami has only filed a legal notification in this instance, claiming trademark infringement. It hasn’t yet filed a lawsuit. Nonetheless, Hindustan Unilever has requested an injunction from the Bombay High Court. The Trademarks Act of 1999, Section 142, applies to this. Anyone who receives baseless and unjustified threats of legal action can seek remedies under this clause. These threats could appear in newsletters and advertisements, among other kinds of communication.

If you are the owner of a trademark and someone is unjustly threatening you with legal action for trademark infringement, you should do the following:

  • In the relevant municipal court that has jurisdiction over your firm, request a restraining order. In this regard, a legal specialist can assist you in organizing paperwork, locating important documentation, and completing the necessary forms.
  • The court will make a decision after taking the threat into account. In addition, the court may decide to grant damages in addition to issuing an injunction against the threat.
  • Whether the trademark is registered or not does not affect the availability of this relief. Therefore, a person with proprietary rights to use a mark but not registered as a trademark may nonetheless file a case with the court. The mark’s assignees and licensees are also covered by this section.

Conclusion

To sum up, the Hindustan Unilever’s rebranding to Glow & Lovely led to a trademark dispute with Fair and Lovely, resolved by undisclosed agreements, highlighting the importance of trademarks in maintaining market uniqueness and legal protection in the beauty industry.

Swetha LLM

Swetha, LLM, a lawyer with skills in writing legal content, is passionate about simplifying complex legal concepts and engaging readers with her insights of nuanced legal ideas. She is able to preserve the accuracy of legal material while adjusting the tone and style to fit the audience.