The Commercial High Court of the Western Province has granted a landmark interim injunction, which was sought by an Indian company over mass counterfeiting in Sri Lanka.
The matter, which was held before High Court Judge, Mahinda Samayawardhena, was declared to be a ‘‘textbook case of violation of intellectual property rights’’.
Jyothy Laboratories Ltd, an Indian multi-product company and leader in local household care industry, has been a victim of mass counterfeiting in Sri Lanka.
Its flagship brand Ujala, introduced a dye-based fabric whitener under the names UJALA and UJALA SUPREME. Its product has been exported to a number of countries including Sri Lanka, where it has been in the market for well over 20 years.
Earlier this year, it was discovered that local companies, Jyothy Laboratories Lanka together with Buhary Segu Naina and Buhary Ali Sabuni who were shareholders and directors of Fa Impex Private Limited which imported UJALA brand liquid blue from the plaintiff in India and sold in Sri Lanka, were illegally importing and manufacturing counterfeit UJALA products and selling them to the local market.
The Counsel for the Plaintiff was led by Manoj Bandara with Lakshana Perera and Hasitha Gamage who were instructed by Sudath Perera Associates. The Plaintiff declared that the local companies infringed upon the copyrighted bottle design and the label of UJALA along with the rights of its trademark name.
The Defendants’ Counsel was led by Romesh De Silva, P.C, with Shanaka Cooray instructed by Chandrakumar De Silva. The Defendants, Buhary Segu Naina and Buhary Ali Sabuni, being the alter egos of Fa Impex Private Limited sold UJALA products in Sri Lanka. However, it was noted that Jyothy Laboratories stopped its imports to Sri Lanka prior to the year 2011, thus none of the sellers were permitted to sell its genuine product with its Ujala trademark.
Furthermore, the almost identical names of the Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ companies, which the Courts acknowledged, made an impression that the defending company is a subsidiary of Jyothy Laboratories. Thereby making it very easy to deceive consumers by leading them to think they were buying the genuine product from the genuine source.
The Defendants had also confessed to illegally manufacturing UJALA products without the knowledge of Jyothy Laboratories. Moreover, the identical packing covers were done through an Indian source, “M/s Chellsons Packaging Pvt Ltd.”, whom they had found by making searches on the internet for entities who could make UJALA packing covers.This action could have caused further confusion amongst consumers and damaged the reputation of UJALA with inferior quality of fakes flooding the market. The High Court Judge stated that this “bare denial to be damning evidence” and that the defendants are “clearly guilty of unfair competition.”
Thus, the interim injunction granted enabled the shutting down of all importing, distributing and selling of all UJALA products by the local companies. And in addition, The Courts provided that the Plaintiff was entitled to cost recovery of the interim inquiry and could also withdraw the sum of Rs. 150,000/=, which was deposited as a security when the order was first issued.
This action is evidence that companies like Jyothy Laboratories is dedicated to cracking down on counterfeits or any copyright infringements of their products, especially in safeguarding the reputation of their founding leading brands like UJALA which have always been associated with superior quality.