Has the legal battle between PhonePe and BharatPe over ‘Pe’ been going on for too long?

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Has the legal battle between PhonePe and BharatPe over ‘Pe’ been going on for too long?
BI India
  • PhonePe claims that ‘Pe’ is a distinctive part of their name and BharatPe’s usage of the term is an infringement.
  • PhonePe has three lawsuits against BharatPe over this issue in the Delhi as well as Bombay High Courts.
  • Recently, the Bombay High Court rejected its claim saying PhonePe does not have a separate registration for ‘Pe’.
The battle for the ‘Pe’ suffix is intensifying and has now compelled BharatPe to approach the Delhi High Court to cancel PhonePe’s trademark over the word.

The issue gained prominence after BharatPe launched its ‘buy now pay later’ offering PostPe a month back.

PhonePe believes that ‘PostPe’ has a striking resemblance to their brand name and decided to take the legal route in the first place.

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The company in its plea also claimed that the word ‘Phone’ is not a “unique” or “distinctive” part of its name, the word ‘Pe’ is. Therefore, BharatPe’s use of the word ‘Pe’ is an infringement.

Walmart-owned PhonePe approached the Bombay high court to sort out this issue. However, the Bombay high court — in a court order dated October 22 — noted that PhonePe cannot claim exclusivity over the ‘Pe’ suffix as they don’t have a separate registration for it.

PhonePe decided to withdraw the injunction post the order to address certain observations made by the court.

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BharatPe then said that by withdrawing the suit, PhonePe has given up its claim for exclusivity over ‘Pe’. However, PhonePe mentioned they intend to file a follow up suit regarding the same.

Now in its plea to the Delhi high court, BharatPe has sought scrapping of multiple registrations held by PhonePe over the ‘Pe’ device mark in the Devanagari script.

“By taking on a trademark for the “Pe” device mark in Devanagari Script in classes relating to payment services in a country like India, where Hindi is the primary language of the masses, PhonePe has acted against the larger public interest, and Resilient [BharatPe’s registered name] is committed to undoing this,” BharatPe’s spokesperson said.

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This is not the first fight over the ‘Pe’ suffix

YearActionReaction
2018PhonePe sends a legal notice to BharatPeBharatPe changes logo and colour scheme
2019PhonePe approaches Delhi High CourtDelhi High Court rejects the plea in April 2021
2021BharatPe launches PostPePhonePe files injunction plea in Bombay High Court claiming exclusivity over ‘Pe’
October 2021Bombay High Court rejects the pleaBharatPe files lawsuit in Delhi High Court, seeking cancellation of PhonePe’s trademark

Previously, PhonePe had filed an injunction plea in the Delhi high court over ‘Pe’ in BharatPe in May 2019. In the matter — heard by a single bench of Justice C Hari Shankar — PhonePe reiterated that ‘Pe’ gives the company name distinctiveness and users are able to associate the said word with their brand name.

The company also said that the colour scheme and font of BharatPe’s logo also had similarities to PhonePe’s.
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However, the Delhi high court too rejected their claim in April this year, citing insufficient evidence. “The evidence presently at hand is insufficient to come to a definitive conclusion that the “Pe” suffix would, in the public consciousness, indelibly be associated with the plaintiff’s services,” Justice Shankar said.

The issue between the two companies has been going on since 2018, after the launch of BharatPe.

PhonePe had sent its first legal notice to BharatPe in August 2018 over the removal of the suffix in question. In response, BharatPe changed its logo and colour scheme.
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