Fintech Majors Bury The Hatchet Over ‘Pe’

SUMMARY

The settlement ends five-year long-drawn legal disputes across multiple courts

Under the settlement, both the companies agreed to withdraw all oppositions against each other in the trademark registry, which will enable them to proceed with the registration of their respective marks

Further, both organisations will undertake to take other necessary steps to comply with the obligations under the settlement agreement in respect of all cases before Delhi High Court and Bombay High Court

Fintech unicorns BharatPe and PhonePe have settled their long-standing legal disputes regarding the use of the trademark with the suffix ‘Pe’ in their brand names.

It is pertinent to note that the settlement ends five-year long-drawn legal disputes across multiple courts.

Under the settlement, both companies agreed to withdraw all oppositions against each other in the trademark registry, which will enable them to proceed with the registration of their respective marks.

Further, both organisations will undertake to take other necessary steps to comply with the obligations under the settlement agreement in respect of all cases before the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court.

“This is a positive development for the industry. I appreciate the maturity and professionalism shown by the Management of both sides, working closely to resolve all outstanding legal issues and moving ahead to focus their energy and resources in building robust digital payment ecosystems,” said Rajnish Kumar, chairman of the board, BharatPe.

“I am glad that we have reached an amicable resolution in this matter. This outcome will benefit both companies to move forward and focus our collective energy on growing the Indian fintech industry as a whole,” Sameer Nigam, founder and CEO of PhonePe, said. ‘

The Long-Trademark Battle Over ‘Pe’

In 2018, PhonePe issued a cease and desist notice to BharatPe, demanding that they cease using the brand name “BharatPe” with ‘Pe’ written in Devanagari script. As a result, BharatPe discontinued using that specific format and switched to using “BharatPe” exclusively for its services.

In 2019, PhonePe filed a plea in the Delhi High Court seeking an injunction order against BharatPe over the use of the suffix “Pe.” PhonePe claimed that the suffix “Pe” had acquired distinctiveness, leading consumers to invariably associate it with PhonePe.

Subsequently, in 2021, PhonePe filed a commercial intellectual property (IP) infringement suit against BharatPe over the registration of the trademark “PostPe” and its variations.

Last year, the Bombay HC dismissed PhonePe’s petition for interim injunction, effectively ruling in favour of BharatPe. Back then, the HC noted that PhonePe failed to make a strong prima facie case for the grant of interim relief.

In the same year, the Madras High Court also rejected its trademark infringement plea against DigiPe. The HC said that there was no other similarity between the two parties except the ‘Pe’ suffix.

In the long battle, PhonePe also moved to the Supreme Court (SC) when the apex court dismissed an appeal filed by the fintech major seeking to restrain DigiPe from using the ‘Pe’ trademark.

“We are not inclined to entertain the Special Leave Petitions under Article 136 of the Constitution of India… The Special Leave Petitions are accordingly dismissed,” the SC said in an order dated May 3.

This dispute was one among a slew of trademark infringement cases involving new-age tech startups and big tech giants. For instance, Elon Musk-led EV major Tesla filed a legal suit against the battery company Tesla Power over trademark infringement and unfair trade competition.

Additionally, in March, the Supreme Court refused to grant relief to travel tech major MakeMyTrip in its plea against Google, alleging trademark infringement through the Google Ads programme.

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