Future Group & Harley reach out-of-court deal

Written by Rasul Bailay | Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 20 2011, 08:26am hrs
After months of sparring over a trademark infringement case, Kishore Biyanis Future Group has reached an out-of-court settlement with the Milwaukee-based iconic brand Harley-Davidson.

The foreign motorcycle company that owns the brand had charged the Future Groups Big Bazaar chain of selling apparel using Harley-Davidson logos in their stores without permission. Harley also accused Big Bazaar of taking undue advantage of goodwill and reputation of its distinct brand.

As part of the settlement reached late last month, the Future Group agreed to refund the legal fees that Harley-Davidson incurred on filing the case against the country's largest supermarket chain for using pictures of Harley-Davidson and its Bar and its Shield logo on the T-shirts. Apart from that, the Future Group is also learnt to have assured the US bike maker that it would immediately refrain from printing the T-shirts.

In August this year, infuriated by the blatant encroachment on its copyrights, Harley-Davidson had dragged Big Bazaar to the Delhi High Court in a bid to restrain the Indian chain from infringing on its intellectual properties and to stop Big Bazaar from manufacturing and selling shirts and T-shirts with the images of the famed motorcycles. Harley argued in the court that it has already registered its flagship Harley-Davidson and Bar and Shield logos and brands under various categories in India including apparel.

Requesting the court for an ad interim ex parte injunction on the matter, Harley-Davidson's counsel alleged that the Future Group's move was an attempt to confuse and deceive the unwary customers, who are likely to be misled into thinking that the products are original Harley-Davidson products or are being manufactured under licence from Harley-Davidson.

The US motorbike maker argued that since the company was founded in 1910 it has been using the Harley-Davidson and Bar and Shield names and it spends enormous amount in advertising those brand names globally and as well as in India. Apart from the power mindspace Harley-Davidson bikes enjoy, its slew of merchandise which apart from T-shirts also includes sports bags, jackets, posters, lighters and caps has also gained immense popularity.

Manav Kumar, the lawyer representing Harley-Davidson in the case, said the case has been settled but declined to comment further. The Future Group spokesperson did not respond to phone calls and text messages. An official email sent to Harley-Davidson India also did not elicit a response till the time of going to press.

The company entered the Indian market in August 2009 and set up its first exclusive dealership in Delhi in July 2010. Since then it has set up dealerships in six cities including Mumbai, Chandigarh and Hyderabad. Currently the company offers 15 motorcycles. In the second half of 2010 the company had sold around 250 motorcycles. The latest sales figures could not be obtained since the company does not share it as a matter of policy.

Big Bazaar, the flagship chain of the Future Group, currently operates about 125 stores nationwide and the segment contributes almost 65% of revenues for the country's largest retailer. Over the last couple of years Big Bazaar has made a major push towards apparels with its Fashion at Big Bazaar campaign that also featured Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.