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Madras HC rules in Britannia's favour in GSK trademark case

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The today restrained Ltd (GSK), the maker of the Horlicks brand, from manufacturing, selling and advertising brand of biscuits for trademark and copyright violations of Britannia NutriChoice Oats biscuits.

The interim order was in response to a petition — a copy of which is available with Business Standard — filed by Britannia Industries Ltd, in which the company alleged GSK’s Horlicks Nutribic, launched on August 20, was a “slavish copy” of Britannia’s NutriChoice Oats.

Immediately after the launch of Horlicks Nutribic, Britannia approached the Madras High Court with a stay application, asking the court to restrain GSK from selling the biscuits using the wrapper currently used by them which according to Britannia is replica of its wrapper for NutriChoice Oats. The application also said GSK infringed Britannia’s registered trademark Nutribix.

In an official statement, Britannia said it argued before the high court “Horlicks Nutribic had adopted similar packaging style, colour scheme, etc. to ride on the enormous reputation built by Britannia.”

“In an interim order passed by the Madras High Court today, GSK, its directors, employees, agents, distributors and retailers have been restrained from manufacturing, selling and advertising Horlicks Nutribic brand of biscuits with the similar trade dress of Britannia’s NutriChoice Oats biscuits. Further, the Horlicks company has been restrained from using the Nutribic trade name,” said the statement.

According to Britannia, the sales of Nutrichoice range of products were Rs 284 crore in 2011-12, compared with Rs 193 crore the year before, an increase of around 47 per cent. The company sold 34,603 tonnes of Nutrichoice biscuits last financial year.

Over the past couple of years, GSK has been building its presence in the biscuits market riding on the Horlicks brand. GSK could not be reached for comments.

With this latest tussle with GSK, Britannia adds another name to the list of its several legal battles over brands and other corporate issues. The company itself is facing a similar case from Kraft Foods, which has alleged one of Britannia’s prodcuts, Treat-O, closely resembled Kraft’s famous biscuit brand, Oreo. Some of its other brand disputes include one with Kellog and another with its erstwhile partner Danone.

Britannia’s offerings are spread across products ranging from bakery (bread, biscuits, cakes and rusks), dairy (processed cheese, milk, curd and health drinks), and the recently launched range of breakfast options under the Britannia Healthy Start brand.

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