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Tussle over ‘Pe’ heats up; BharatPe moves Delhi HC seeking cancellation of PhonePe’s registrations

The clash between the digital payments startups continues with BharatPe filing six cancellation actions against PhonePe’s registrations. BharatPe says its move is in the larger interest of over 10 entities using the ‘Pe’ suffix which is a common Hindi term.

October 26, 2021 / 03:57 PM IST
PhonePe App (PC- Twitter/@PhonePe_)

PhonePe App (PC- Twitter/@PhonePe_)

BharatPe has taken the clash with digital payments rival PhonePe a notch higher by moving the Delhi High Court (HC) to cancel the latter’s registration on the Devanagari script of ‘Pe’.

BharatPe on October 26 said that its holding company Resilient Innovations has filed six cancellation actions against multiple registrations held by PhonePe before the Intellectual Property Division of the Delhi High Court.

This move comes after PhonePe filed a petition in the Bombay High Court on October 22 against BharatPe’s usage of ‘Pe’ in name of their new Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platform PostPe.

PhonePe withdrew the petition after the court observed that the usage of ‘Pe’ cannot be judged independently as per law and that the terms PhonePe and PostPe must be compared as a whole.

The court had added that PhonePe cannot claim exclusivity over the mark ‘Pe’, the court had added. PhonePe however had said that it will follow up by filing a fresh suit after incorporating observations made by the court.

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A BharatPe spokesperson said that PhonePe has acted against the larger public interest by taking on a trademark for ‘Pe’ in the Devanagari script in a country like India where Hindi is widely spoken.

“PhonePe has been asserting its registration for the ‘Pe’ device mark in Devanagari Script as being equivalent to the English word ‘Pay’. Even though both the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court have prima facie found PhonePe’s assertion to be incorrect, Resilient (i.e. BharatPe) has filed these cancellation actions so as to provide a level-playing field to all stakeholders in the digital payment space once and for all,” the spokesperson added.

Taking a dig at US retail giant Walmart’s 10 percent stake in PhonePe, the spokesperson said that ‘home-grown’ Resilient Innovations has the muscle power and motivation to tackle ‘foreign-funded entities’ like PhonePe, smaller and new-age entrepreneurs may succumb to the pressure.

BharatPe’s investors include Venture Capital firms Tiger Global, Coatue, Ribbit Capital, Sequoia Capital India, Steadview Capital Management, Insight Partners and Amplo.

PhonePe did not comment on Moneycontrol’s queries on the filing by BharatPe.

The spokesperson said, “Currently, Resilient is aware of more than ten digital payment products in the market in India, a number that is ever-growing. It is desirable to promote healthy competition in this space, and not merely look at personal gains, which has become the second nature of companies like PhonePe.”

“We hope that PhonePe would at least now get a reality check, and put an end to its ill-conceived and ill-motivated agenda in the Indian market,” the spokesperson added.

The hearing on the petition is slated for November 8 in the Delhi HC.

However, this is not the first time that both players are clashing over the common suffix in their names. In September 2019 too, PhonePe had moved the Delhi HC against the competitor for using the suffix, seeking a similar injunction. In April this year, the Delhi High Court dismissed PhonePe’s plea while observing that BharatPe was not in violation of the trademark.

PhonePe withdrew the injunction plea later and moved Delhi HC for a full-fledged trial against BharatPe which is currently ongoing.
Priyanka Iyer
first published: Oct 26, 2021 03:55 pm

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