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Naveen Jindal’s firm cheats Wieden + Kennedy of Rs 1.5 crore; steals campaign idea

The incidence of stealing the campaign idea propped up at a time when the BJP leader himself is campaigning for his election from the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat

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Shailesh Khanduri
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Naveen Jindal BJP

Naveen Jindal campaigning in his Lok Sabha constituency, Kurukshetra (Image courtesy: X account @MPNaveenJindal)

New Delhi: BJP nominee from Haryana's Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat and industrialist Naveen Jindal-owned Jindal Steel was caught stealing the campaign idea presented by global creative agency Wieden + Kennedy causing them a loss of Rs 1.5 crore.

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The incidence of stealing the idea for the “Jindal Steel—the Steel of India” campaign propped up at a time when the BJP leader himself is campaigning for his election from the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat.

However, it is unclear if the businessman-politician will ever understand the pain of a creative agency where a creative idea is an intellectual property.

Jindal, who declared his and his wife Shallu's movable and immovable assets at about Rs 1,000 crore at the time of filing his nomination papers, joined the BJP in March after leaving the Congress, was an MP from Kurukshetra from 2004 to 2014.

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He is facing Indian National Lok Dal's (INLD) senior leader Abhay Singh Chautala, who is the sitting MLA from Ellenabad in Sirsa district, and AAP's Sushil Gupta, among others.

An act of stealing the hard work of a creative agency to save Rs 1.5 crore raises a big question about Jindal’s ethics in business.

The Congress turncoat’s company got the campaign created either in-house or with the help of some production house using stolen ideas from the globally renowned creative agency. 

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Jindal Steel neither gave credit to the agency nor the payment as per the service agreement, according to the prayer made by the agency in its petition filed in the Delhi High Court.

The Delhi High Court in its April 24 order ruled that the “Jindal Steel—the Steel of India” campaign is prima facie an act of stealing the idea presented by Wieden + Kennedy, a BestMediaInfo.com report said.

The agency had moved the court after Jindal’s company released a campaign earlier this year in March alleging copyright infringement and dishonouring the service agreement.

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“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 reproduced a few comparisons from the court order.

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The sequence of events showing unethical business practices by Jindal Steel, owned by Jindal (54):

Wieden + Kennedy and Jindal Steel had worked together in the past on prior campaigns, including the ‘Steel of Oman’ campaign and the ‘Jindal Panther TMT Rebars’ campaign. 

According to the Delhi High Court order, Jindal Steel signed a fresh service agreement with Wieden + Kennedy to create a campaign for the Indian market for about Rs 1.8 crore to be delivered in four months from May to August 2023.

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.

The agency and Jindal Steel were consistently engaged at each step but the latter chose to terminate the contract arbitrarily and unilaterally after receiving campaign materials such as the theme and the concept a few days before the final delivery of the film or the end of the term of the service contract.

The Delhi High Court order said, “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.”

Upon the analysis of the evidence presented by the agency, the court concluded that the ‘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,” the High Court order said.

“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,” the court added.

The order noted that Jindal Steel is liable to pay at least 75% of the service contract fee to the agency as per the service agreement, which is Rs 1.3 crore.

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.

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