The Delhi High Court has passed an injunction in favor of the manufacturers of Corona Extra beers in a case alleging disparagement by Facebook posts, associating the brand with coronavirus. The bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher noted that the plaintiff’s statutory and commercial interests in India would get jeopardized if an ad interim injunction is not granted in its favor.
The Mexican company stated that Whiskin spirits had released an advertisement in which its bottle of Whiskincraft Whiskey is shown practicing social distancing from the bottle of Corona Extra Beer, thereby indicating to the public that they shall refrain from consuming products of the company. Whiskin spirits is a Delhi based manufacturer that has been gaining popularity with these advertisements.
The Plaintiff, Cerveciria Modelo de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. claimed that it was aggrieved from this campaign on the social media platform Facebook which analogizes the plaintiff’s products with the virus causing this disastrous pandemic.
The court noted that a prima facie case of disparagement has been established and also observed that the balance of convenience appeared to be in favor of the Mexican Beer giant given the nature of its market for the aforementioned product.
The court held that-
“In the meanwhile, till the next date of hearing, the defendant, its employees, agents, officers, affiliated entities and all others acting for and on its behalf are injuncted from reproducing, broadcasting, communicating to the public, screening, publishing and distributing the impugned advertisement on any media or platform including the social media platforms.”
The Plaintiff was represented by Advocates Pravin Anand, Shantanu Sahay, Aasish Somasi, and Rohan Sharma. It has sought damages of more than Rs. 2 crores for the damage caused to the business of the firm. Calling the advertisement in bad taste, the firm claimed that this advertisement is causing a lot of damage to the goodwill and reputation of corona beer.
In a society with a significant number of people lacking literacy, and one of the highest numbers of mobile phone users, disparaging campaigns like these can cause a lot of damage to brands and businesses of companies. What is noteworthy is the fact that Whiskin spirits served as the distributor of Corona Extra Beer for the year 2014-15.
Disparagement means using false information, claims, or statements against the competitor, which causes damage to the competitor. This kind of activity has been banned and barred by the Trademarks Act, 1999. While comparative advertising is allowed, advertisements that are misleading or detrimental to the competitor’s product are prohibited.