NEW DELHI: The Bombay High Court has restrained domestic chips company Balaji Wafers from manufacturing, selling and advertising a new brand of chips, in an interim order in favour of PepsiCo.

The Indian unit of PepsiCo filed a design infringement suit in December, alleging that Balaji Wafers’ Rumbles brand of chips had a design similar to that of its Lay’s Maxx chips, a person in direct knowledge of the matter said.

A PepsiCo spokesperson confirmed the matter, but declined to provide further details.

Chandu Virani, the managing director of Rajkot-based Balaji Wafers, told
ET that his company would seek relief from the court. “PepsiCo is worried about our growing share, hence they are doing this. Why will we copy them? Our design is not similar to theirs,” said Virani, who started selling homemade snacks nearly half a century back and is now among India’s most successful snack manufacturers.

The court noted that the Balaji Rumbles design was similar to that of the Lay’s Maxx registered design, and passed the interim order last week stating that pending the hearing and final disposal of the case, Balaji was restrained from making and selling its Rumbles brand.

PepsiCo had in 2011 obtained design registrations worldwide including in India for a ‘deep ridge cut’ design for its potato chips. While it launched potato chips under the Ruffles trademark in the US with this design, the India arm of the global snacks and beverages maker started selling the product here in 2015 under the Lay’s Maxx brand name.

Last year, PepsiCo had filed a case against local farmers in Gujarat over intellectual property rights infringement, which it subsequently withdrew.

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PepsiCo had alleged that the farmers were cultivating without permission a specific variety of potato, which it had developed for its Lay’s potato chips.

While PepsiCo, which began selling packaged snacks in India over two decades back, remains the leader in the Rs 28,000-crore-plus market by a thin margin, the category is seeing intense competition as Indians increasingly swap meals for snacks. Besides PepsiCo, ITC, Britannia, Parle, Nestle, Haildiram’s, Balaji Wafers, Prataap Snacks and Bikano are among the leading players in the branded packaged snacks segment.



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