In the Indian context, historically, the word ‘Fair’ in reference to skin colour has been highly coveted by all and sundry. There is hardly a matrimonial advertisement that one will see without a preference for fairness. Brands have played into these stereotypes and reinforced them over and over again through various products. In a recent belated but welcome change, brands selling skin lightening creams took a stand to change this narration and join the global outrage with regard to discrimination against skin colour. However, this too came with its own controversy.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd. recently dropped the word ‘fair’ from their brand ‘fair and handsome’ and replaced the same with ‘glow’. An interim relief to Hindustan Unilever Ltd against Emami Ltd stating that HUL should be given a seven-day prior notice before initiating a legal proceeding on trademark.
The Court observed after hearing the arguments that it does not appear ‘prima facie’ that HUL is the prior adopter of the mark as it had already filed the trademark application in September 2018 and subsequently in June 25, 2020. However, the court was of the opinion that the statements made by the defendant company Emami Ltd are amounting to a threat whether they are ‘unlawful or groundless’.
As per the application issued by HUL, it launched a fairness cream in 1975 which was gender neutral. HUL also launched ‘Fair & Lovely, Men’ in 2006. HUL stated that it has adopted the trademark of the terms ‘Glow & Lovely’ and “Glow & Handsome’ back in 2018. Nonetheless, HUL officially announced that ‘Fair & Lovely’ shall be rebranded as ‘Glow & Lovely’ on July 2, 2020. It claimed that the company shall no longer be highlighting its skin-lightening cream and dropped the word ‘fair’ from its Rs. 3000 crore brand. The men’s range of products owned by HUL were to be rebranded as ‘Glow & Handsome’.
The decision to rebrand the skin-lightening product by HUL came after facing criticism for the name ‘Fair & Lovely’ which promoted negative stereotypes towards the darker skin tones promoting racism in its advertisement campaigns.
The Kolkata based Emami group was shocked by such ‘unfair business practice’ which would damage their brand image. Eventually, Emami gave the press statements threatening a legal action against HUL for violating the rights of Emami’s ‘Glow and Handsome’. The matter is intended for further hearing on July 27, 2020.