The Khadi and Village Industry Commission said Saturday that it “force[d]” platforms like Flipkart and Amazon to take down over 160 listings of “fake khadi products”. While Khadi is a non-proprietary hand-woven fabric, the government has of late been more actively exercising the state monopoly on regulating what products can and cannot be branded as “Khadi”. We have reached out to Flipkart and Amazon for comment.
“There has been a steep rise in violation of Khadi trademark as the popularity of Khadi grew manifold in recent years after the Prime Minister’s appeal to buy Khadi products,” the KVIC said. “Exploiting this opportunity, a number of online sellers began selling random products in the name of Khadi.” A seller called Khadi Global Store that KVIC served a legal notice to has renamed itself as “The Indie Earth”.
FabIndia, however, did not get away so easy. In 2018, a Bombay High Court suit was filed by KVIC against the clothing e-tailer for a sum of Rs 525 crore for what KVIC said was wrongful use of the Khadi name; while FabIndia agreed to stop using the name, the case is still ongoing in the Bombay High Court according to the government’s press release. KVIC isn’t just a watchdog — it is also a seller of khadi products, which has led to criticism that the commission has a conflict of interest in enforcing its rights over the name of the fabric. “Khadi has been manufactured and sold since the pre-independence era. It is a generic term. The entire industry cannot suddenly be dictated by a government body,” Kritika Sahni, an intellectual property advocate said in 2018.
The KVIC’s stated zeal in enforcing its rights over the name are reminiscent of film studios’ anti-piracy actions: KVIC says it has “employed a dedicated legal team, [and] a mix of human and technological tools to ensure a systematic and continuous monitoring and takedown of unauthorised products being sold in the name of Khadi.”
Correction (September 28): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the KVIC has a monopoly on the sale as well as regulation of the use of the name “Khadi”. The KVIC regulates and approves sale of products under the “Khadi” name, and therefore does not have a monopoly on the sale of the fabric. We regret the error.