The Delhi High Court has rejected PhonePe’s plea to issue an injunction order against BharatPe for using ‘Pe’ in its name.
According to the court’s order issued on April 15, a single judge bench of Justice C Hari Shankar held that PhonePe’s claim that the ‘Pe’ suffix in its trademark had acquired distinctiveness and a secondary meaning to the extent that consumers would invariably associate ‘Pe’ with the company is a “matter of trial”.
“The evidence presently at hand [is] insufficient to come to a definitive conclusion that the “Pe” suffix would, in the public consciousness, indelibly be associated with the plaintiff’s [PhonePe’s] services,” Justice Shankar said.
In 2019, PhonePe had petitioned the Delhi High Court seeking an injunction restraining infringement of trademark, passing off, and damages from BharatPe, essentially accusing the company of illegal usage of ‘Pe’ as a suffix in its app in English as well as in Hindi.
Apart from the alleged “deceptive similarity” in the ‘Pe’ suffix that both PhonePe and BharatPe share, the former had also said that just like its logo, BharatPe’s logo too was purple in colour and used similar fonts, according to the court order.
However, Justice Shankar held that this claim was insufficient to prove that BharatPe’s logo is deceptively similar to PhonePe’s. “…it does not appear, at a plain glance, that the colouring of the letters in the two marks, or their font, is the same,” he added.
Relying on several past judgements by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, Justice Shankar was of the view that a registered trademark cannot be “dissected” and exclusively claimed, barring a few exceptions which didn’t apply to this case.
The order also noted that there is a difference between the services provided by PhonePe and BharatPe. While the former provides a UPI-based payment portal, the latter provides a single QR code which can be used by all consumer UPI-based applications including PhonePe.
However, in its order, the court directed BharatPe to maintain accounts of the amount of money it earns as a result of using the ‘BharatPe’ trademark and to file six-monthly audited statements.
“The case is still sub-judice before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court. This order only relates to our application for temporary injunction in an ongoing trademark dispute pertaining to use of the mark ‘Pe’. PhonePe will continue to pursue this trial to defend its popular and dominant brand positioning, and take necessary steps to prevent any misuse of its mark,” said a PhonePe’s spokesperson.
We have reached out to BharatPe for comment and will update the story when it responds.
Indian startups haven’t shied away from taking legal action against their competitors over alleged trademark infringements. In February, BigBasket had sent a cease and desist letter to a small Coimbatore-based startup DailyBasket over the use of the term ‘Basket’ in the latter’s name.
In the past, firms like Flipkart and EaseMyTrip have been dragged to court either for running a private label or for offering products with a similar brand name to others.