[Update 2: ASUS 6z Launch] Delhi court blocks ASUS from selling products under the Zen or ZenFone brands
Last year, ASUS announced the refreshed ZenFone Max series and besides a large battery (attributing to the suffix Max), the series focusses on attributes that put up for a high value proposition. Since it undercut some of Xiaomi’s popular products and comes with stock Android, devices like the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2, Max M2, as well as the older Max Pro M1 fared really well in India. However, this popularity now comes under threat with a ruling against ASUS that prohibits it from selling smartphones or accessories in India under the ZenFone branding.
The plaintiff for this lawsuit is Telecare Network India Pvt Ltd, which claims to own the trademarks for Zen and Zen Mobiles. The company sells feature phones as well as entry-level smartphones and (previously also sold) tablets under this brand name and has claimed that the use of a similar branding by a competitor is damaging. Finding these claims reasonable, the Delhi High Court has restrained ASUS from selling any smartphone, tablet, or accessory with the ZenFone branding starting eight weeks after May 28th i.e. July 23rd.
The High Court took note of the fact that Zen has been selling mobile phones since 2008 and even commenced a partnership with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in 2010 for him to be the company’s brand ambassador. ASUS, on the other hand, only started selling smartphones under the ZenFone branding in 2014.
ASUS contended that Zen is a generic term in Buddhist philosophy but the court overruled this by saying that even though Zen is a common term, it cannot be easily directly associated with smartphones or tablets and therefore cannot be treated as generic in this case. Thus, Telecare Network India is “entitled” to protect the trademark, the judgment read. Further, since ASUS has itself applied for the ZenFone trademark, it cannot argue that the name is actually generic.
The next hearing of the case takes place on July 10th. If the lawyers representing ASUS fail to provide compelling evidence that its decision to choose a conflicting name is not an act of trademark infringement and passing off, the company may have to comply with the court ruling and stop selling devices in India – at least, temporarily. Besides smartphones and accessories, the court ruling may also affect ASUS’ line of ZenBook laptops, unless reversed.
For now, ASUS may either bypass this prohibition by selling smartphones under a different brand name like ASUSPhone or proceed with appealing in the Supreme Court of India and this can take a very long period before a resolution is passed.
Source: Bar & Bench
Update 1: Official statement
ASUS released the following statement regarding the Delhi courts decision on the Zen/ZenFone branding:
The ASUS legal team is currently working with the Delhi High Court in India to resolve the Zen Mobiles and ZenFone trademark lawsuit. The supply of ASUS smartphones, notebooks and other products, as well as technical support and after-sales service for all ASUS products remain unchanged for all consumers.
Update 2: ASUS 6z launch
Over on Flipkart, ASUS is teasing its upcoming June 19 Indian launch event for its ZenFone 6. However, it seems the device will be sold as the “ASUS 6z” rather than the “ASUS ZenFone 6.” No doubt this is due to the recent Delhi High Court decision. Other than branding, the device seems to be identical to its worldwide counterpart which we are currently in the process of reviewing.