Aishwarya Ramesh

Dabur takes Marico's Saffola to court over similarities in product packaging

The two products are uncannily similar, but what can brand owners and designers learn from this debacle?

When Marico introduced Saffola Honey in the market, the company ended up ruffling a few feathers. Dabur filed a case in the Delhi High Court against Marico for 'imitating' the bottle, trade dress, label and packaging of Dabur Honey, reports The Economic Times.

The matter was termed as sub-judice and both the companies refused to comment, but the report mentions that Marico will continue to manufacture and sell Saffola Honey in its current avatar in the market.

Marico's Saffola Honey vs. Dabur Honey
Marico's Saffola Honey vs. Dabur Honey

The court documents allege that there are similarities in the shape of the bottle, its yellow cap, the dome-shaped label, and the visual usage of honey combs on the label. If the two jars of honey were placed side by side, one can certainly argue that there are visual similarities. Could this situation be avoided?

Bear in mind that a few years ago, Marico didn't take too kindly to being on the other side of the fence. In 2016, the Bombay High Court directed Jin-X Healthcare - a Mumbai based company, to change the colour scheme of its coconut oil brand - Parajet - along with the name. The Court also restrained Jin-X from using shades of blue in its packaging.

Parajet coconut oil
Parajet coconut oil

Parajet indeed bears an uncanny resemblance to Marico's Parachute coconut oil and an unwitting customer may not be able to differentiate between the two, at a glance. The Bombay High Court at the time, ruled in Marico's favour, but what do brand owners and their designers need to keep in mind, while creating and designing a new product?

We spoke to Umbrella Design's CCO Salil Sojwal to understand the situation better. He admitted that, at first, he was dismissive of the charge. He explained that on the face of it, despite the similarities coming from the colours and imagery associated with the category - he found the two designs are easily distinguishable.

He adds that if one were to think about the shelves in a retail environment, or even a thumbnail on a shopping app, Dabur would have cause for concern. Sojwal adds that Saffola could surely benefit from mistaken identity.

Salil Sojwal
Salil Sojwal

"More disappointing is the fact that Marico has always had high standards for packaging design, and Saffola has been modern urban in appeal forever. So, it’s a mystery why they had to take this meek clutter-blending strategy because this can't be an accident. Packaging designers are too acutely aware of competitive scenario for that to happen," he says.

What lessons can brand owners learn? Sojwal says that they need to look at all brand attributes as the brand itself. He stresses on the importance of carving out their own proposition to a degree where it can't be mistaken for a commodity. "Designers need to coax out better briefs to this end, even take ownership of the strategy as that can't be divorced from the design approach," he concludes.

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