Jindal Steel ‘steals’ Wieden + Kennedy’s idea, breaches contract: Delhi HC

The Indian arm of the global creative agency moved the Delhi High Court after Jindal Steel unilaterally and arbitrarily terminated the contract and used the agency’s work for the “Steel of India” campaign

Akansha Srivastava
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Delhi: The Delhi High Court has ruled that the “Jindal Steel—the Steel of India” campaign is prima facie an act of stealing the idea presented by its creative agency, Wieden + Kennedy.

The agency had moved the court after BJP leader and Kurukshetra Lok Sabha candidate Navin Jindal-owned Jindal Steel released a campaign earlier this year in March alleging copyright infringement and dishonouring the service agreement.

“The launch by the respondent (Jindal Steel) of the new campaign prima facie seemed to be substantially based on a similar theme, expressed through a montage of sequential images and videos stitched together by a soundscape of steel,” the Delhi High Court said in its April 24 order, adding that the choice of elements from the elements bucket provided by the petitioner (Wieden + Kennedy) to the respondent are substantially the same.

Wieden + Kennedy India had submitted evidence before the court to show how Jindal Steel used the same set of examples through a sequence of images.

BestMediaInfo.com is reproducing a few comparisons from the court order on an as-is basis:




The court ruled that the issue of infringement of copyright would have to be considered by the sole arbitrator. 

“If the Services Agreement had fully worked out, the petitioner would have received the monies and the respondent, the copyright. Therefore, if it is found ultimately that there was an infringement of copyright, not only may the petitioner get their declaration, but also suitable recompense,” the High Court observed. 

Having perused the documents and appreciating the contentions of the parties, the High Court concluded that, as evident from the communication extracted above and the flow of events, the parties were consistently collaborating to develop an ad campaign under the Services Agreement. 

“Not only were there substantial presentations made for the proposed theme, format, and content of the campaign, but the respondent also made a choice and selection to go ahead with the ‘Jude Raho India’ theme. 

“This is evident from the communications of May 27, 2023, June 5, 2023, June 12, 2023, June 21, 2023, June 29, 2023, and July 14, 2023. In fact, it is surprising that there was no precursor to sudden termination, which the respondent delivered on July 25, 2023. There is no communication on record nor asserted by the respondent, prior to July 25, 2023, when unilateral termination was communicated, which expressed specific grievances in relation to delivery.

“Emails of 14th July 2023 as mentioned in para 8.9 above, specifically bear out that ‘Steel of India’ campaign was shared by the petitioner (Wieden + Kennedy). Also, there were discussions on payment of 50% advance in the email of 14th July 2023 which significantly were responded to by the respondent on the same day stating that please continue services, the payments shall be released within this week”.

“Thereafter, within a week or 10 days, the respondent (Jindal Steel) issued a termination notice which seems to this Court a bit amiss in these circumstances. Further, there was no explanation offered by the senior counsel for the respondent, as to why payment of 50% of the fees as mandated by clause 3.3 (a) of the Services Agreement had not been paid. This too was the demand on 4th July 2023 by the petitioner, which ex-facie, purely under the terms of the contract, could have been due.

“Even though the parties entered into discussions post the termination notice being issued, it is quite evident from documents on record, at least at this prima facie stage, that no payment was made to petitioner as per clause 3.3 (a), or in fact clause 3.3 (b) which mandated 25% of the fee by 30th June 2023 nor did the settlement fructify, the demand of petitioner being 75% plus interest whereas offer of the respondent being Rs. 25 lacs (all inclusive).” 

The High Court observed that Wieden + Kennedy and Jindal Steel were engaged in prior campaigns, including the ‘Steel of Oman’ campaign and ‘Jindal Panther TMT Rebars’ campaign, and were not alien to each other, to elicit a sudden yanking off of the Services Agreement.

As noted above, strictly as per clauses of the agreement, payment ought to have been made by the respondent to the petitioner (subject of course to various other conditions, as may be argued by the respondent) which was not done, the HC said.

However, applying the bizarre logic of the impugned video/campaign having already been launched on March 14, 2024, the High Court refused to pass any injunction on the campaign aired by Jindal Steel. 

“The balance of convenience clearly tilts in favour of the respondent (Jindal Steel). The impugned video/campaign having already been launched on 14th March 2024, it may not be in the interest of justice to injunct the respondent at this stage,” the court noted.

In its April 24 order, the HC sent the matter to a court-appointed sole arbitrator after asking Jindal Steel to deposit a security of Rs 50 lakh with the court. 

Stating that the company has already committed to spend in excess of Rs 50 crore for running the campaign across mediums, Jindal Steel had expressed its willingness to deposit Rs 50 lakh in the court to express their bona fides in the matter before the commencement of arbitration.

Click here to download the detailed judgement of the High Court.

Wieden + Kennedy India