Ranbaxy banned from airing disparaging advertisement


In Paras Pharmaceuticals Limited v Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited (February 21 2008), the Gujarat High Court has issued an interim injunction preventing Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited from airing a televised advertisement for its pain reliever.

Paras Pharmaceuticals Limited manufactures and sells a pain relief ointment in purple-coloured packaging under the mark MOOV.

Ranbaxy broadcast a televised advertisement to promote its Volini pain relief gel. The advertisement showed a woman with a box of pain killers which had a similar colour, get-up and trade dress as the Moov ointment. Another woman gave her some Volini gel, saying "You need a real pain reliever".

Paras contended that the advertisement was disparaging in that it suggested that its Moov pain reliever is not effective. Paras also alleged that use of the lookalike packaging in the advertisement infringed its registered trademark and copyright.

The trial court rejected Paras's application for interim relief. Paras appealed to the Gujarat High Court.

Before the appellate court, Ranbaxy submitted that the advertisement merely provided information on the qualities of the Volini gel and did not suggest that Paras's product was inferior. Ranbaxy argued that an advertiser is allowed to proclaim that its product is the best and mere puffery is not actionable under the law. In addition, Ranbaxy denied that the get-up and trade dress of the pain reliever shown in the advertisement were similar to those of the Moov ointment.

Upon viewing the advertisement, the court held that it was disparaging of Paras's product. The court concluded that the advertisement - and, in particular, use of the purple colour for the purpose of comparing Ranbaxy's product with a 'fictional' pain reliever - was disparaging and amounted to infringement of Paras's trademark. The court ordered that Ranbaxy change the colour of the packaging of the 'fictional' product in the advertisement and enjoined it from printing, publishing, advertising and using the get-up and trade dress of Paras's Moov ointment.

Ranbaxy appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking vacation of the interim injunction. The Supreme Court has issued notice, but has not yet made any observations on the appellate court's order. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will depart from the reasoning of the High Court.

Binny Kalra, Anand And Anand Advocates, New Delhi

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