Khadi Organic’s Ram Mandir-Related Services Suspended by Delhi High Court because they “Prey on Public’s Religious Beliefs”

According to the Court, the defendants seemed to be abusing the Khadi Commission’s goodwill and trying to monopolize the Ram Mandir consecration event by “preying on the public’s religious beliefs and devotion.”

Recently, the Delhi High Court issued an interim order prohibiting the defendants (private parties) in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (plaintiff) from using the “Khadi Organic” name and related marks.

On January 18, Justice Sanjeev Narula issued the order after learning that the defendants were taking advantage of the Khadi Commission’s reputation and goodwill to solicit donations and make false claims to provide “free Ram Mandir Prasad” in exchange for paying a delivery fee and collecting items associated with the shrine.

According to the Court, the defendants seemed to be abusing the Khadi Commission’s goodwill and trying to monopolize the Ram Mandir consecration event by “preying on the public’s religious beliefs and devotion.”

Thus, it ordered the defendants to stop these activities, halt the operation of their website, www.khadiorganic.com, and remove posts on social media about giving away free “Ram Mandir Prasad” and products related to the Ram Mandir Pran Pratishta (consecration/inauguration ceremony) on January 22.

Following a review of the defendants’ website and donation pages, the judge determined that the defendants’ “Khadi Organic” marks were confusingly similar to the “KHADI” trademark, which is owned by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. As a result, the order was made.

The Khadi Commission further claimed that there were multiple posts from unhappy clients who claimed they ordered items related to Ram Mandir from the defendants but never received them. The plaintiff’s attorney continued by saying that although the Commission also placed an order for similar goods, it was not fulfilled.

According to the plaintiff, this proved that the defendants had taken money from clients by making fraudulent claims and failing to deliver merchandise orders or a confirmation receipt.

“In these circumstances, the Court is convinced that the Plaintiff has been able to demonstrate a prima facie case in their favour and in case an ex-parte interim injunction is not granted, Plaintiff and will suffer an irreparable loss; balance of convenience also lies in favour of the Plaintiff and against Defendants No. 1 and 2. Defendants No. 1 and 2 and any person acting on their behalf are restrained from manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, exporting, advertising, directly or indirectly, any kind of goods and/or services under the marks “KHADI ORGANIC” or mark identical or deceptively similar to Plaintiff’s registered KHADI marks, which would amount to infringement or passing off of the Plaintiff’s KHADI marks,” the Court proceeded to order.

The defendants informed the court that they were requesting a delivery fee of ₹51 from customers in India and 11 US dollars from customers abroad in exchange for the free delivery of “Ram Mandir prasad.”

Additionally, the defendants used websites bearing the trademarks Khadi Earth and Khadi Organic to offer for sale a variety of items related to the Ram Mandir, collectibles, food items, home temples, and goods needed to conduct religious ceremonies like Gangajal.

The Court was informed that these kinds of activities were advertised on websites like Pinterest and Instagram. The plaintiff-commission contended that the defendants did not have the right to misappropriate the KHADI mark and create the false impression that the plaintiff was associated with the organization that is hosting the consecration ceremony, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

Additionally, it was claimed that a number of clients had uploaded reels and videos to Instagram claiming that the defendant’s “free Prasad service” was a fraud. On January 14, the defendants held a live session on YouTube to make it clear that the initiative was private and not under the control of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

The same video also stated that almost 20 lakh orders had been received as of January 14. Subsequent investigations by the Khadi Commission revealed that one of the defendants had additionally submitted a trademark application on January 13, 2024, seeking ownership rights to the mark “KHADI ORGANIC.”

However, the plaintiff made note of the fact that it had successfully filed lawsuits against the defendants in May 2022 and March 2023 before the World Intellectual Property Organization regarding the domain name www.khadiindia.us, which was used to sell goods like clothing, home accessories, and cosmetics under the KHADI mark.

The plaintiff was granted an ex-parte interim order by the High Court subsequent to its consideration of these submissions. On May 27, the case will be heard again.

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