Since SoftBank invested in Flipkart (now acquired by Walmart) last year, the Indian ecommerce unicorn has been fighting one legal battle after the another. This time, Metro Shoes, a multi-brand footwear chain in India, has alleged Flipkart of selling a private label by the brand name of Metronaut, which is deceptively similar to Metro’s eponymous brand.
Metro Shoes operates over 200 outlets in and around 100 cities. The footwear retailer has filed a trademark infringement case against Flipkart in Bombay High Court and has also alleged that the ecommerce company is selling shoes, among other products, under the brand name Metronaut, said Piyush Shah, Metro Shoes’ lawyer, in a media statement.
Flipkart launched Metronaut as a private label brand in July 2017. Metronaut supports over 300 styles in men’s clothing and accessories.
In an email response to ET, Flipkart stated, “Flipkart has not been aware of any such legal proceeding. If we are served a notice by any court or judicial authority, we will take the necessary actions that are in the best interests of the company.”
This is not the first time a retailer has filed a case against Flipkart. In December 2017, US-based athletic footwear brand Skechers filed cases in the Delhi high court against ecommerce giant Flipkart and four other sellers for selling fake Skechers products. The four sellers included Retail Net, Tech Connect, Unichem Logistics, and Marco Wagon.
Skechers, with the help of court-appointed local commissioners, raided seven warehouses of the sellers in Delhi and Ahmedabad and discovered more than 15,000 pairs of fake Skechers shoes.
Early this year, Flipkart was engaged in sorting out matters with the Income Tax department over reclassification of discounts as capital expenditure; it later won the case.
The, since Walmart bought a 77% stake in Flipkart, Walmart-Flipkar has been fielding allegations by various trader organisations seeking to protect the interests of small sellers. The deal is also facing an audit from the Income tax department.
Legal tangles have now become a regular affair in the Indian digital ecosystem. Earlier, companies like Snapdeal and Paytm have also faced such trademark infringement allegations. In March 2016, Palo Alto-based design and decor company Houzz sent a legal notice to Bengaluru-based Houzify, claiming “deceptive similarity” between the trademark Houzz and Houzify/Housify.
And here is one on the reverse side. In April 2016, Flipkart filed a case against “copycat” firm FlipkartDiscounts, a Madhya Pradesh-based company which was providing several discount listings on its site, in addition to directing consumers to various ecommerce portals including Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, and Paytm.
In essence, with online marketplaces looking to blur the lines between offline and online, these incidents of trademark infringement and selling counterfeit products reveal the existing loopholes in the system. The digital ecosystem authorities need to resolve such problems to esure healthy growth of Indian ecommerce.