Mumbai-headquartered footwear brand Metro Shoes has filed a case in the Bombay High Court against Flipkart alleging that the e-commerce company’s private label by the brand name of Metronaut is ‘deceptively’ similar to Metro, and has alleged Flipkart for trademark infringement.

Metro shoes also alleged that Flipkart also sells shoes under its private label Metronaut. Flipkart had launched Metronaut in July 2017, focused on men clothing and accessories. For context, here are the two brands’ wordmarks side by side.

In a statement shared with MediaNama, the e-commerce player said that “Flipkart is not been aware of any such legal proceeding. If we are served notice by any court or judicial authority, we will take the necessary actions that are in the best interests of the company.”

The case filings can be tracked on the Bombay High Court site, and apparently, there are two cases. Below are the screenshots.

Flipkart’s previous legal issues

This is not the first time that Flipkart’s private label has faced a trouble. In January this year, Delhi court had restrained Flipkart from using its private label brand MarQ on the account of trademark issues. Under its private label MarQ, Flipkart sells Air Conditioners, Washing Machines, TVs and Microwaves. The trouble started when a Delhi-based electric appliances maker Marc Enterprises (plaintiff) filed a case saying that Flipkart’s (defendant) MarQ is similar to its own name selling similar or identical goods, and that this is a violation of its trademark that it has been using since 1981 and registered in 1984. Marc sells products like geysers, fans, heaters and coolers etc.

In other development, in May, Flipkart filed a police complaint against its senior-level executive and one of its vendors, Macrowagon Retail (MRPL) alleging cheating, fraud, forgery, and breach of trust. Flipkart had a contract with MRPL to sell products like Skechers shoes on the platform. But apparently, Flipkart’s director who was handling the vendor and MRPL, was importing cheap counterfeit products and were selling them as genuine products. Flipkart reportedly found about the sub-standard products after a third-party forensic audit. The employee at the company had reportedly forged the bills, and the company had paid for things like taxes, import duties etc for the products perceived as genuine products.

Intermediary Liability

Section 79 of the Information Technology Act offers safe harbour to intermediaries, provided they address complaints received and do not knowingly allow the usage of their platform to break the law. However, as we have pointed out several times earlier there is a need for better understanding of the responsibility, accountability and liability of platforms, marketplaces and aggregators. There’s no doubt that online aggregators and marketplaces are good for consumers and competition. But then who is accountable, when things get screwed up? And what about the liability of these platforms?