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Ekaya Banaras boss recalls when she had locked horns with IKEA over similar brand names

Palak Shah received a letter of objection from IKEA over similarity in brand names.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 11, 2019, 08.08 AM IST
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Palak Shah recalls how she dealt with a furniture giant’s objections to her company’s name — in her first year of business.
Palak Shah recalls how she dealt with a furniture giant’s objections to her company’s name — in her first year of business.
Ekaya Banaras CEO Palak Shah recalls how she dealt with a furniture giant’s objections to her company’s name — in her first year of business.

When Indian textile company Ekaya opened their store in Delhi in 2012, something pulled the rug from under their feet. They were sent a letter of objection by IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant. The spellings of IKEA and Ekaya may be different. But phonetically, they sounded similar, causing IKEA to fire off a letter.

“IKEA is pronounced as Ee-kay-ya in Sweden and they thought we had copied the name so they raised an objection letter in our first year of business,” Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya Banaras, told ETPanache during a meeting in Mumbai recently.

At the time, IKEA were preparing to launch in India. They objected to ‘Ekaya’ on the grounds that it would create confusion among customers. “It [the letter] was very baseless,” said Shah. “Because it was all about names and Ekaya itself is an old Sanskrit name so there was no basis to their argument. It had to get settled, there was no other option.”

For a new entrepreneur with just a few months under her belt, receiving that objection letter could have been daunting. But Shah says she was unfazed.

“To be honest, I found it funny because such a big brand was noticing our brand which was just in its first year of operation,” she said. “I was like, this is really stupid and I laughed about it. But [in a way] I feel like that lawsuit also got us eyeballs.”

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Worldwide rights
Nonetheless, Shah didn’t play down the risk to her brand. During the settlement process, she ensured that her brand was allowed to use the name ‘Ekaya’ worldwide.

“I don’t want it to be a situation where I take the brand elsewhere internationally and I’m faced with another lawsuit so I made sure that IKEA allowed us to use ‘Ekaya’ worldwide, not just in India,” Shah said.

Fight smart
Asked how she would advise other brands facing similar legal issues, Shah said, “It depends on whether they’ve truly not copied at all and the name is originally theirs. [If yes], I feel one should not back down. Just because these MNCs are big and they have money to waste doesn’t mean they are right.

“I feel like there are smarter ways of settling it. I didn’t spend a lot of money on this,” Shah said. “We found smarter strategies like writing directly to the Swedish head [which streamlined the process]. So things got sorted out on their own for us.”
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