FMCG major Hindustan Lever Ltd has suffered a setback with the Delhi High Court dismissing its plea to stop rival Reckit Benckiser India Ltd from running an advertisement of Dettol soaps, which HLL had alleged disparaged its popular brand Lifebuoy.
HLL had filed a lawsuit alleging that Reckit Benckiser’s campaign for Dettol belittled its popular soap under the brand name Lifebuoy, which has been in market for 110 years.
However, Justice A K Sikri gave a clean chit to the advertisement that promoted Dettol s by keeping four different coloured soaps in the background and comparing its product with them.
“I have held that present campaign of Reckit & Benckiser (manufacturer of Dettol), prima facie, does not amount to disparaging HLL’s Lifebuoy. It is not necessary to go into this issue,” the judge said.
“Further, in any case, when it is not disparaging any product in particular, such a claim would, at best, be merely puffing the product Dettol, which is permissible,” he said.
HLL had contended that Dettol’s advertisement on television comparing it with four other soaps in green, brown, white and red in the background with alleged inscription claimed that its product was “10 times better” than others including Lifebuoy.
HLL’s contention was that since red colour was synonymous with Lifebuoy, anybody watching the said commercial would get an impression that it was Lifebuoy soap.
To press its point, the Lifebuoy manufacturer cited a report by A C Nielson, which said the soap had 15 per cent market share. It also referred a survey in which 80 per cent of the consumers thought that red coloured soap shown therein was Lifebuoy.
However, Reckit & Benckiser India Ltd made a point-by- point rebuttal of allegations levelled by HLL.
While agreeing with the reply of Reckit & Benckiser, the court said the name of HLL’s soap Lifebuoy was not specially mentioned in the advertisement as was claimed. Basing its judgment on the same report which was cited by HLL, the Bench rejected its claim that red coloured soap was synonymous to Lifebuoy.
“One cannot claim itself to be the market leader with 15 per cent share and there are many other soaps available in the market in red colour. Even Lifebuoy is available in four colours,” the court said.