Unless you live in Bengaluru, you may not have heard of Happy Belly Bakes, a bakery, but this small business took on e-commerce behemoth Amazon in a trademark battle and won in a city civil court. The copy of the order, viewed by Moneycontrol, showed that the court ruled in favour of Happy Belly Bakes.
Happy Belly Bakes, a women-run business founded in 2008 by Shisham Hinduja, sells cakes, brownies, cookies, and other baked goods. It has held the trademark on the name 'Happy Belly' since 2016, after changing its name from Regalar to this in 2010.
However, during the 2017 festive season, Hinduja began receiving calls asking if they had begun selling their products on Amazon, which they had not.
It was, in fact, Happy Belly, one of Amazon's several private labels launched in 2016. In some of the markets where it operates, it sells bakery items, dairy, crackers, snacks, spices, and other items under this label.
Then, Hinduja's Happy Belly Bakes filed a lawsuit against Amazon Seller Services, Cloudtail India (which was formerly one of Amazon's top sellers and was partially controlled by it; it has since discontinued operations), and Tootsie LLC, which submitted the trademark application on Amazon's behalf.
Amazon's defence against Hinduja's trademark infringement claim was that the two companies are not similar and run different businesses.
While Hinduja's Happy Belly Bakes was restricted to Bengaluru only, Cloudtail and Tootsie claimed they have been using "Happy Belly" for their products worldwide.
In 2016, Amazon attempted to submit a trademark application through Tootsie for the name "Happy Belly," but was unsuccessful.
Amazon has not sold products under the name Happy Belly since 2018 in India.
On August 30 of this year, after more than four years in court, a judgment was pronounced in Hinduja's favour, finding that Amazon had violated the Happy Belly Bakes’ trademark.
According to the ruling, Amazon even claimed in court that Happy Belly Bakes lacked goodwill and reputation. Rejecting this, the court stated that the company has been in operation since 2008 and that the “contention shows the arrogance of defendants”.
“As such, the use of trademark HAPPY BELLY is certainly infringing and passing off of the plaintiff’s trademark,” the court said, ruling in the favour of the Bengaluru bakery. It permanently restrained Cloudtail and Tootsie from using the name in the country, and said the mark or logo of the business is ‘deceptively similar’.
Additionally, it instructed Amazon Seller Services to take down any items using the Happy Belly Bakes trademark that are available on Amazon's marketplace in India.
In a statement, Hinduja told Moneycontrol that the legal process has prevailed. Queries to Amazon were unanswered at the time of publishing, and this story will be updated if they choose to respond.
While Hinduja’s Happy Belly Bakes prevailed in this case, Amazon has been accused multiple times of squeezing small businesses. It has been accused of undercutting small businesses by using data of independent sellers on the platform and launching a product that would compete with the seller in the US.In India too, it is on the radar of the Competition Commission of India. In April this year, Reuters reported that Cloudtail and another Amazon seller, Appario were raided by the CCI over alleged violations of the competition law, relating to allegations of promoting preferred sellers and giving priority listings. Earlier, Amazon has also been accused of engaging in predatory pricing.