Delhi High Court allows appeal by Patanjali Ayurved against Meta Platforms Inc in a trademark suit; Directs Trial Court to decide matter afresh

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: An appeal was preferred by the appellant (plaintiff) under Order XLIII Rule 1 read with Section 106 of Civil Procedure Code assailing the impugned order dated 28-07-2023 passed by the Trial Court whereby the plaint has been returned purportedly in the exercise of powers under Order VII Rule 10 CPC. Dharmesh Sharma, J., allowed the appeal and directed the Trial Court to hear the parties afresh and decide the issues involved in the suit afresh after hearing the parties.

The appellant was a company incorporated under the Company Act, 1956, and was engaged in the manufacturing and distribution of various healthcare products throughout India as well as abroad using its registered trademark “PATANJALI”. The grievance of the appellant is that a video has been uploaded by respondent 4 (defendant 4) on the internet platforms management and controlled by respondents 1 to 3 and 5. It is suffice to state that the alleged video is an advertisement of mens undergarments, wherein the appellant’s trademark along with pictures of its brand ambassadors and directors are shown used unauthorizedly. It is the case of the appellant that respondents are violating its statutory and common law rights to use its registered trademark ‘PATANJALI’ exclusively to the appellant/plaintiff.

Counsel for the plaintiff submitted that the Trial Court had committed a grave error in holding that the suit is commercial and invited the attention of the Court to the definition of “Commercial Dispute” as given in Section 2(c)(xvii) of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. Counsel for the respondent submitted that no proceedings can be brought against them as they are simply “intermediary” in terms of Section 2(w) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 and are exempted from any liability in terms of Section 79 of the said Act.

The Court noted that on a careful perusal of the relevant provisions in the CPC., it is evident that the Trial Court did not follow the mandate provided under Order VII Rule 10A(1) of the CPC. The Trial Court never invited any query from them regarding the application, if any, of the CC Act and that the impugned order has been passed suo motu without hearing them on certain grounds. Since the amended Rule 10A to Order VII CPC was not followed, the impugned order cannot be sustained.

On the submission of the respondents that the offensive video is a case of an innocuous parody which neither disparages the trademark of the appellant nor in any manner results in defamation and they are not making any financial gains as such and rather such video would otherwise be protected in exercise of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), the Court directed the Trial Court to hear the parties afresh and decide the issues involved in the suit afresh after hearing the parties.

[Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. V. Meta Platforms Inc., 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7131, decided on 07-11-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Zoya Junaid, Mr. Pullit Gupta, Mr. Umang Verma and Mr. A. Dutta, Advcates for appellant

Ms. Mamta R. Jha, Mr. Rohan Ahuja and Ms. Shruttima Ehera, Advs. for R-2/Google LLC Mr. Deepak Gogia and Mr. Aadhar Nautiyal, Advs. for R3/X Corp.

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