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Court frowns on Colgate ad

10-September-2004
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Court frowns on Colgate ad

Dabur India has got interim relief from the Delhi High Court which has restrained its business rival Colgate Palmolive from telecasting a new TV commercial on Colgate tooth powder. The court order will be effective from September 13.

Dabur had filed a suit against Colgate accusing the latter of damaging its ‘Lal Dant Manjan’ (tooth powder) brand through a disparaging TV commercial. In it film star Sunil Shetty terms ‘Lal Dant Manjan’ as akin to sandpaper by rubbing it in the purchaser’s spectacles, where it leaves marks. He then remarks that it’s easy to change spectacles, but not teeth.

The court has observed, “The advertisement campaign on the visual media has an immediate impact on viewers and possible purchaser’s mind when a well known cinestar is endorsing it.”

When contacted, both Colgate and Dabur declined to comment.

“The averred right of the defendant (Colgate) to inform the purchasing public of the ill effects of the Lal Dant Manjan powder based on its commissioned study cannot tilt the balance of convenience in favour of the defendant particularly when the plaintiff (Dabur) also seeks to rely upon studies commissioned by it to back up the merit of its product,” Justice Mukul Mudgal observed in an interim order.

Dabur Lal Dant Manjan, a Rs 150-crore brand of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) major Dabur, claims to have 80 per cent market share of the Ayurvedic tooth powder market. Dabur in its complaint said: “The impugned advertisement runs down all Lal Dant Manjan tooth powders as severely detrimental to dental health and particularly damaging to tooth enamel.”

While the advertisement does not directly refer to Dabur Lal Dant Manjan, the visual representation in the ‘offending’ advertisement leaves no doubt that it is Dabur’s product, it said.

Industry experts say the tooth powder market in India is estimated at around Rs 450 crore in which whites contribute about Rs 225 crore and reds about Rs 175 crore.

Colgate’s counsel defended the campaign on the ground that its criticism was based on studies conducted in the US which found such tooth powder damages tooth enamel.

Citing two judgements of the Delhi High Court (Reckitt & Coleman vs Kiwi TTK Ltd and Dabur India vs Emami), the Court observed: “If there is no defamation, to the goods or to the manufacturer of such goods, no action lies, but if there is such defamation an action lies for recovery of damages for defamation, then the court is also competent to grant an order of injunction restraining repetition of such defamation.”

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