Intellectual property rights are very important for start-ups, says Puneet Gupta, CEO, Clensta International.
Clensta International is an IIT Delhi-partnered, complete research-backed start-up venture. The brand has recently partnered with Cipla for the personal care range. In an interview, Puneet Gupta, CEO & Founder, Clensta International, talked on a wide range of issues. Excerpts:
Q: Tell us about Clensta’s IPR infringement case and how research played a critical role in it.
A. Chinese company has copied Clensta’s trademark and filed application in class 3 category with application number 34395297. Upon investigation by Clensta’s IP team, it is found that they have filed 70+ trademark application with 13 different classes; and have a few laws violation cases against them on the grounds of bad faith and malpractice. Moreover, they don’t have any digital presence.
Therefore, Clensta has filed an IPR infringement case with the help of legal partners at China against that company on the grounds of opposition as follows:
i) Prior use: the mark “CLENSTA” was originally created and used by the opponent party (Clensta International Pvt. Ltd), Article 11(3) states that any sign lacking distinctive features shall not be registered as trademark. In pursuance to this, the registration of the opposed mark was liable to be set aside.
ii) Association with the mark: – The opponent party claimed the long-term used of the mark “Clensta” which also enjoys high reputation in China. Article 13 of China’s Trademark Law states, “Where a trademark in respect of which the application for registration is filed for use for identical or similar goods is a reproduction, imitation or translation of another person’s trademark not registered in China and likely to cause confusion, it shall be rejected for registration and prohibited from use.” The opposed mark, therefore, was liable to be rejected.
iii) Mala fide act: That Chinese company has been in the practice of applying for other trademarks as well which are owned by certain overseas companies. Such acts clearly show the obvious bad faith and lack of actual intent of use.
Q: What kind of support was received from the embassies? Also, tell us about the Chinese company.
A: Clensta International Pvt Ltd, a start-up company in partnership with IIT Delhi, approached the Indian Embassy at Beijing, seeking help in this fight. They were very supportive and benevolent towards us and wrote a Note verbales to various departments associated with Chinese government such as Dept of Asian Affairs, Ministry of commerce, Trademark Office, Foreign affairs, Higher People’s Court & Supreme People’s Court etc. seeking their intervention as a Chinese company violates trademark rights of an Indian company Clensta International Pvt. Ltd by illegally registering them for unethical commercial gains. After examination of the evidences and related information, China National IP Administration (“CNIPA”), in pursuance to Articles 30 and 35 of China’s Trademark Law rejected the registration of the opposed mark No. 34395297, “Clensta” in Class 3.
Upon investigation, it was found out that the Chinese company which has copied Clensta’s trademark, has filed 70 trademark applications with 13 different classes. Most of their filed trademark belongs to established companies in US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. Therefore, it’s a case of stealing IP with the clear intend to either stop us expanding in China or extracting money. Having only two employees their targeted industry doesn’t match with their filed trademark categories. Moreover, they don’t have any digital presence, the same company is also blacklisted in trade dispute.
After examination of the evidences and related information, China National IP Administration (“CNIPA”), in pursuance to Articles 30 and 35 of China’s Trademark Law rejected the registration of the opposed mark No. 34395297, “Clensta” in Class 3. Clensta marked victorious in this International IPR infringement case.
Q: What is the importance of having intellectual property rights for a start-up? What is your advice to future entrepreneurs while dealing with IPR patents?
A: Intellectual property rights are very important for start-ups as it can helps improve the valuation of the business and to develop goodwill amongst their consumers apart from acquiring the competitive advantage in the market. It is critical to understand that paybacks of Intellectual Property Rights are just not confined to immediate protection of a product’s differentiating factor’s or USP’s or technical advancements behind it. It profits a business in many more ways.
My advice to the budding start-ups is to protect their IPs. Do not public them before filing a Patent, it is your protective shield against people copying/stealing your ideas at the same time enhances your credibility and trust. Having a Patent granted will certainly widens the horizons for the upcoming business deals, raising funds, merger, acquisition etc.
Q: What was the idea behind the partnership with Cipla and how is this move helpful in the growth of the brand?
A: The company is working on an extension of their marketing and distribution partnership with Cipla, one of the leading global pharmaceutical company in India for its waterless technology products. This deal will redefine the hygiene and cleanliness for patients in hospital setups, primarily focusing on ICUs where patients don’t have easy access to bathing and likewise, Government & defense forces who are located in remote locations and cannot take bath easily.
Q: Who will be the manufacturers of these waterless technology products and where are the manufacturing units for the same?
A: Clensta will be the manufacturing rights of these waterless technology products namely, Waterless Bodybath and Waterless Shampoo. However, the products are developed at a manufacturing unit in Uttarakhand, India.
Q: At a time when many brands are partnering with other brands, is this a business strategy, or is it because of the impact that Covid is having on businesses?
A: Clensta strongly believes in innovation backed by scientific studies and sustainability and our waterless products have helped patients and soldiers around the world and saved 400 million liters of water till now.
Moving further, Cipla will run an intensive marketing drive to educate the right buyers as planned. They target to make this one of their successful portfolios where they’ll be redefining the cleaning process through their various teams for promoting the product at various levels in Indian territory aiming towards expanding maximum reach to hospitals, pharmacies, defence and various institutions. This is a step taken on PAN-India level in continuation of efforts made by Clensta so far.
This strategic partnership with Cipla is an important step in our journey to redefine bathing without exhausting water. The company sees significant synergies between the two companies especially on brand relationships and consumer experience.