In defamation cases, public apology more suitable than monetary damages

Delhi High Court: The Single Bench of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, J. has opined that a direction to  issue a public apology would be a more appropriate relief than monetary damages in defamation cases, especially when defamation was caused by a media report, since monetary compensation could never restore the reputation damaged by a libelous news report.

In 1997, the Outlook magazine had published an article titled “Spot the Fake One,” along with a photograph with the caption “Lawyer Parveen Anand displays Seized Fakes,” where Mr. Anand was shown standing next to some alleged fake goods, including a carton bearing the trademark ‘TOSIBA’. The plaintiff, a manufacturer of domestic appliances under the mark ‘TOSIBA’ was involved in some trademark disputes with Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba, wherein the latter was being represented by Mr. Anand. The plaintiff, thus, contended that Mr. Anand while acting on behalf of Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba had caused substantial loss to their reputation through the aforesaid photograph.

The High Court observed that the article was general in nature, relating to the subject of counterfeiting of well-known brands, and was not relatable to the plaintiff. Moreover, the plaintiff had itself pleaded that its goods were genuine and had never been seized, and therefore the depiction of the mark ‘TOSIBA’ in the photograph could not be a reference to the plaintiff as it was in relation to fakes goods of genuine articles. Hence, the plaint was rejected as not disclosing any cause of action. The Court, however, directed the Outlook magazine to publish a clarification that the plaintiff and Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba were involved in trademark disputes and the aforesaid article was not to be read as imputing that the goods of the plaintiff were counterfeit goods of Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba. [Tosiba Appliances Co. Pvt. Ltd. v. Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8104, decided on 01.05.2017]

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