In a recent news there was a lawsuit where Whirlpool of India, a unit of home appliances maker Whirlpool Corp., had sued Videocon for design infringement. Whirlpool of India in June sued Videocon in the high court after it discovered that latter had introduced washing machines with a similar design.
Whirlpool of India was seeking an injunction against Videocon’s manufacturing of a washing machine that was launched in June, 2012 stating that it had a striking similarity with a washing machine designed and registered by it in July 2009 (Design registration no.223833 and 223835). Both the designs were registered in 2009. Plaintiff was also asking for the damages that have incurred due to this infringement.
Videocon launched a new washing machine under the name ‘Pebble’ in June, 2012. Whirlpool of India found out that there was similarity in design of Videocon’s ‘Pebble’ and their own range of washing machines that is sold in market by the name of ‘Ace’. Whirlpool filed a lawsuit in Mumbai high court seeking an injunction on the ‘Pebble’ brand and was also seeking damages due to this infringement. Whirlpool alleged that Videocon had infringed and passed off its registered design (Design registration no.223833 and 223835) for its washing machine which had a rectangular shape on one side and a semi-circular shape on the other with a jettisoned panel for the knobs.
“A washing machine costs Rs 15,000 and we make 50 different types of machines; so them challenging one does not make a big difference. It is a very small case for us,” Videocon chairman V.N. Dhoot said in an interview after the decision.
“Though there may be some similarity in the shape and configuration, the same would not amount to infringement of the plaintiff’s product,” said Virag Tulzapurkar, a senior advocate representing Videocon Industries.
During the hearing of this case Videocon argued that this design of Whirlpool is invalid in accordance with Section 4(a) & (b) of Design Act i.e. the design was neither new nor original and had previously been disclosed to the public. The Court did not agree with the Defendant and used Section 6 to explain that same design can be protected by one owner in two different classes without the question of novelty.
And stating that this was a clear case of design infringement of Whirlpool as Videocon is “imitating the plaintiff’s designs and also passing off the same as that of the plaintiff’s product”, Justice B.R. Gavai in his 36-page order (passed on 25 July, 2012 but released on 1 August), ordered Videocon to immediately recall Pebble washing machines from the market.
“The defendant had come with its product in June 2012 with striking similarities. If an injunction as sought is not granted, an irreparable injury would be caused to the plaintiff” the judge said.
This was the first design infringement case in India involving major corporate companies. As the Design act is new in India, there would be chances that some amendment could be made in that, specially regarding Section-6 of the act which states that any design can be protected in different classes by the same owner without the question of novelty. Also its necessary to clarify that design protection is only for the protection of outer design and it doesn’t matter how that machine works.