How BharatPe and PhonePe Finally Resolved Their Trademark Dispute

Over the past five years, both corporations had been embroiled in protracted legal battles in several courts.
How BharatPe and PhonePe Finally Resolved Their Trademark Dispute

BharatPe Group and PhonePe Group have declared that all long-standing legal concerns about the usage of trademarks with the suffix "Pe" have been peacefully resolved. Over the past five years, both corporations had been embroiled in protracted legal battles in several courts.

As per a joint statement released by both companies, all the ongoing legal actions will conclude with the settlement. To move on with the registration of their individual marks, the parties have already taken action to withdraw all oppositions against one another from the trademark registrar. 

Both organisations will also undertake other necessary steps to comply with the obligations under the settlement agreement in respect of all cases before the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court.

But where did the battle start?

The dispute between the two companies started in August 2018 when PhonePe initially requested BharatPe to cease using the suffix 'Pe' in Devanagari script. Following this, PhonePe filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court, seeking to prevent BharatPe from using the 'Pe' suffix in English too. PhonePe claimed that BharatPe's use of the suffix infringed on its trademark. 

At that time, PhonePe argued that the suffix 'Pe' had become so distinctive that consumers would automatically associate it with PhonePe. However, in an order dated April 15, 2021, the High Court rejected PhonePe's request for an interim injunction. The court stated that, aside from the common 'Pe' suffix, the trademarks 'PhonePe' and 'BharatPe' were not confusingly or deceptively similar. The words 'Phone' and 'Bharat' are entirely different and not even phonetically alike. 

The battle didn’t end there.

PhonePe also moved to the Bombay High Court in 2021 against the holding company of BharatPe, Resilient Innovations, for utilizing the suffix for its PostPe Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) service.

However, the Bombay High Court rejected the copyright infringement plea against BharatPe in April 2023. The court observed that PhonePe's argument was inconsistent. PhonePe claimed in this case that the suffix 'Pe' in its trademark means 'on' in colloquial Hindi, implying'services on the phone.' In a 2019 case against BharatPe, PhonePe argued that 'Pe' referred to 'payment,' a misspelling of 'Pay.' These contradictory claims led the court to conclude that PhonePe was trying to get interim relief by shifting its position, making it ineligible for such relief.

In August last year, the Madras High Court also ruled against PhonePe’s appeal in a trademark infringement case against software company DigiPe. The Supreme Court also rejected PhonePe's appeal to stop DigiPe Fintech from using its trademark, 'DigiPe.' Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud's bench noted that many companies, including BharatPe, already use 'Pe' as a suffix.

The court also mentioned that the original lawsuit between PhonePe and DigiPe was ready for trial and refused to intervene at this stage. PhonePe had challenged the Madras High Court's August decision, which dismissed its petition, stating there was no other similarity between the parties except the 'Pe' suffix. 

A positive development for the industry

With the five-year-old rift finally coming to an end, Rajnish Kumar, Chairman of the Board at BharatPe, said that this is a positive development for the industry, and the companies can now focus their energy on building a robust digital payment ecosystem.

Read: BharatPe, PhonePe Settle Trademark Disputes Over 'Pe' Suffix

Similarly, Sameer Nigam, founder and CEO of PhonePe, said that this outcome would help the company dedicate their collective energy towards the growth of the fintech industry as a whole. Several companies have been time and again involved in infringement, with some being Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Cadbury India Limited.

Read: Ashneer Grover Receives Delhi HC Order To Refrain From Creating 3rd Party Rights On BharatPe Shares

The latest example of the same was when Tesla Inc. sued Tesla Power India Pvt. Ltd., a Gurgaon-based battery supplier, in the Delhi High Court for trademark infringement. In response to Tesla Inc.'s appeal, the Delhi High Court issued a notice on Thursday prohibiting Tesla Power from releasing any advertising for EV products that feature the Tesla brand.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Business & Money