The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court thumbs down to cola ad

New Delhi, Sept. 1 (PTI): Delhi High Court today restrained Coca-Cola from airing its Thums Up and Sprite commercials featuring actor Salman Khan, saying they were intended to depict Pepsi as inferior.

Acting on Pepsi’s appeal, the court forbade Coca-Cola from airing the commercials which show Salman riding a roller coaster and saying a drink — of a company with a logo similar to that of Pepsi — is for children.

However, a division bench of Justice Usha Mehra and Justice .P. Dwivedi held that Coke’s use of an object similar to the Pepsi logo in its campaigns did not amount to trademark and copyright infringement.

Last year, a single-judge bench had dismissed a petition filed by Pepsi in March 2001 seeking to restrain its rival from airing the advertisement that allegedly was intended to malign Pepsi products.

The soft drink giant had objected to the use of the slogan Yeh Dil Mange No More, contending that the phrase was deceptively similar to its copyrighted lyrics Yeh Dil Mange More.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Pratibha M. Singh, appearing for Pepsi, had alleged that in another advertisement, the use of a spherical object with the word Papi — identical to Pepsi’s logo — was derogatory.

Senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, appearing for Coca-Cola argued that the two commercials were neither disparaging nor was Pepsi’s trademark used.

The high court bench today held that Coke’s slogans were derogatory. “It cannot be called puffing up,” the bench said, adding that “the manner in which this message is conveyed clearly shows disparagement of the appellant’s product”.

But the court did not accept Pepsi’s contention that Coca-Cola’s use of an object similar to its logo amounted to trademark and copyright infringement.

“We find force in the submission of Chagla that the impugned advertisement neither uses trademark of the appellant in the course of trade nor in any manner to suggest the connection of the appellant’s trademark with (the) respondents’ product,” the court said.

But the court observed that Pepsi’s slogan Yeh Dil Mange More was entitled to be protected under the copyright law. Holding that it is Pepsi’s “original work”, the bench said the phrase has acquired “distinctiveness” and association with the Pepsi product.

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