Category Archives: Trademark

TATTOOS AS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY- AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

INTRODUCTION:

Tim Parks in his book[1] wrote “You will only have copyright in a society that places a very high value on the individual, the individual intellect, the products of individual intellect.” In an overtly aware society like ours, there is no doubt that we not only value but are also more aware of our rights. In addition to our awareness, there is something else that is more peculiar about present times – our curiosity and our need to keep evolving with time. With this constant need for metamorphosis, our technology and art forms also are changing at a rapid scale, leading to the foundation and formation of various industries emerging from them including the Tattoo industry. This body graphics phenomenon, while may seem to have gained popularity very recently, has its roots inked all the way back in CA. 8000 BP where a ‘moustache’ was found tattooed on the upper lip of the South American Chinchorro mummy[2]. With the tattoo industry growing to become a $1 Billion industry[3], the legal framework to regulate this industry seeks evolution as well. With tattoos, the questions that need to be put to rest seem quite fundamental, beginning with – Do we have adequate laws and the legal framework to regulate and enforce the rights relating to tattoos? Are tattoos artistic enough to be copyrightable at all? If yes, who owns the rights? What is the extent of these rights? How do we enforce them?

This article tries to explore the answers to these questions while making an attempt to understand tattoo related jurisprudence across the world in comparison with current legal framework in India and its possible interpretations.

TATTOO – A COPYRIGHTABLE WORK?

Since copyrights are rights granted to artistic forms of expression on tangible mediums, tattoos ought to qualify, for copyright protection. Unlike in U.S. where the applicable statute[4] requires the “pictorial, graphic and sculptural” copyrightable work to be “original works of authorship fixed on a tangible medium of expression”, Indian law does not explicitly specify the need for tangible medium of expression. However, owing to the permanent nature of the tattoos and the human body being the “tangible medium of expression”, the reservations against tattoo not being copyrightable work, by definition, should be ruled out.  As if to prove Indian Copyright Office’s validation of tattoos as copyrightable works, the Indian Copyright Office, in 2011, granted Shahrukh Khan a copyright registration for his tattoo[5]. While there has not been a copyright infringement case for tattoos as yet in India, the news of the Warner Bros. making use of an unauthorized tattoo in their movie Hangover 2 in 2011 and then, being sued by the tattoo artist from Missouri[6] made quite a stir and has had the legal community thinking of the ramification of making the tattoos a copyrightable commodity. Though the case was discreetly settled, the million dollar question is still being debated as to who shall reap the benefits of the tattoo and can the standard injunctive damages apply, as they apply for paintings, books or other works of art.

To understand the applicability of copyrights to tattoos, one must recognize that it is only original and custom made tattoos that are the subject of this discussion. Standard tattoo in catalogues or on the walls of parlours are not to be considered thereto. Of all the ingredients, originality is the principal ingredient, without which a copyright does not exist. Having said that, the efforts made by the tattoo artists in inculcating the imagination of the tattoo bearer are worth marvelling about, it must be understood that if the copyrights of a tattoo are to remain in the possession of the tattoo artist, the rights to exploit the copyrighted ‘piece of art’ also rests with them. Among the various other rights of the copyright holder mentioned in the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, Section 14(c) (ii) specifies that the copyright holder has the right to communicate the piece of work to the public. It must be noted that this provision relating to the communication of the artistic work to the public speaks of ‘artistic work’ only implying that tattoo artist is entitled rights only of the “artistic work” i.e. the tattoo bearer’s body that has been imprinted with the tattoo while allowing the artist to restrict the replications of the artistic work in any other medium under Section 14. Thus, one may imagine the way in which a copyright holder, in this case the tattoo artist may incorporate the above mentioned right, considering that the ‘work of art’ which is to be communicated to the public is actually on somebody else’s body, unless the tattoo artist has tattooed himself. In other words, it may mean that the tattoo artist has the right to control and regulate the tattoo bearer’s activities which, by all means, violates the very right to freedoms promised to us by Art.19 and Art.21 of the Indian Constitution, to say the least. Another argument in the favour of the tattoo bearers holding the authorship rights is that the tattoo artist is a hired employee, in which case, S.17(c) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 may be interpreted as the tattoo bearer being a quasi-employer of the tattoo artist, is the first owner of the copyright, in the absence of a contract between the two. In practice, most tattoo artists, too, believe that once the customer pays for the tattoo, he owns the tattoo and all the rights that come with it.

In the defence of the tattoo artists’ rights to obtain the copyright, it may be said that like painters, they, too, create art and have a right to copyright the same to retain their originality. Also, as in the case of art collectors, the tattoo bearer may merely own the piece of art and the copyrights of the designs may still rest with the tattoo artist and certain amount of royalty may be reimbursed to the artist for replication or incorporation of this piece of art on various mediums such as video games, as in case of THQ Inc.[7], where the gaming company was sued by Mr. Conduit’s tattoo artist for illegally and wrongfully using the mixed martial artist’s tattoo in the game. Taking a leaf from so many cases of tattoo artist’s suing gaming[8] and entertainment companies[9], and also having burnt its fingers once[10], EA Games played it safe by taking permission from the tattoo artists of the respective sportsmen before using their work in their new NFL 15[11].

TRADEMARKING TATTOOS :

Quintessentially, the function of a trademark is to distinguish one’s services or goods from the others selling or providing similar goods or services. So when one gets a trademark or logo tattooed on himself or herself, given the aforesaid logic, the chances of them intending to confuse any member of the public of being the originator of any particular goods or service are rare. However, in some organizations, employees are encouraged to get tattoos of the organization’s logos or taglines[12].

On the other hand, in some cases, one might end up welcoming a cease and desist notice for tattooing a trademark without prior permission, like in the case of a coffee shop owner in New York who was slapped with a cease and desist notice for infringing the trademark “I ♥ NY” for tattooing “I [coffee cup] NY” on his knuckles. [13] The coffee shop owner, in this case, to avoid litigation, settled and agreed to certain terms of the said rightful owner that included restrictions on having his tattooed knuckles photographed and censoring of the cafe’s logo, which happened to be the tattooed knuckle, from the window pane of his coffee shop. While it is essential to note here that not only was there no direct trademark infringement but also the coffee shop owner had not copied the design of the logo as it is. He had introduced the image of a coffee mug instead of the “♥” which could be proved as distinctive form of expression and could have stood his ground pointing the difference in the tattoo design from the allegedly infringed logo. Having said that, like the idiom “every coin has two sides”, every legal argument can be fought from both the sides as well, making this jurisprudence ever so interesting.

CONCLUSION:

There seems to be crystal clarity, with the Warner Bros. case[14] verdict and Shahrukh Khan’s tattoo[15] being granted copyright registration, that tattoos are indeed copyrightable property. The variable in the equation, however, is the extent of the rights that are to be granted to the parties and its enforceability. While the moral rights like endorsing the tattoos in the name of the tattoo artists and giving them their credits when they are due, are undoubtedly implicit, the debate that needs to be put to rest is the statutory rights that are to be bestowed on either party.

Another question that needs the legal community’s immediate attention is the enforceability of these rights once they are granted. In order to protect and execute these rights, we are in need of a strong precedent that will define the limit the extent of injunctive relief that may be sought by the copyright holders without violating the infringer’s fundamental rights. With a Catch-22 situation before us and no binding precedent to break this deadlock, one can see only two definite possibilities – either the tattoo artists are granted their much earned and awaited royalties for every picture, endorsement, and social media coverage given to their art, or the conscious tattoo bearers is to carry fresh, newly drafted contracts for their tattoo artists to have their rights assigned to them every time they enter a tattoo parlour!

Author: Amruta Mahuli, Legal Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at mumbai@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References :

[1] Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron_Deter-Wolf/publication/275023614_The_Material_Culture_and_Middle_Stone_Age_Origins_of_Ancient_Tattooing/links/552ecd7f0cf2d495071a90b1/The-Material-Culture-and-Middle-Stone-Age-Origins-of-Ancient-Tattooing.pdf?origin=publication_detail

[3] https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/specialized-market-research-reports/consumer-goods-services/personal/tattoo-artists.html

[4] 17 U.S. Code § 102

[5] http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/srk-registers-don-2-tattoo-in-his-name/817871/

[6]  S. Victor Whitmill Vs. Warner Bros., Civil Action No. 4:11-cv-752

[7]  Christopher Escobedo v. THQ Inc., Case No.: 2:12-cv- 02470-JAT, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix)

[8] Solid Oak Sketches, Llc V. 2k Games, Inc., U.S. District Southern District Of New York, No. 16-00724.; http://mitchellhamline.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/11/2-Copyrighting-Tattoos-Artist-vs.-Client-in-the-Battle-of-the-Wai.pdf

[9] Reed v. Nike, Inc, No. 05-CV-198 BR (D. Or. Feb. 10, 2005); http://www.brinksgilson.com/files/190.pdfl; Ibid. 5

[10]  Stephen Allen v. Electronic Arts Inc. et al., Case No.: 5:12-cv-03172, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

[11] http://www.barstoolsports.com/dmv/ea-sports-got-permission-from-colin-kaepernicks-tattoo-artists-to-use-his-ink-in-madden-15/;

[12] http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/02/employees-get-tattoo-of-company-logo-for-pay-raise/; http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28207945

[13] http://theconversation.com/who-owns-your-tattoo-maybe-not-you-56050

[14] Ibid. 4

[15] Ibid. 3

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INDIA’S PROTECTION TO SECRETS OF TRADE

  1. Introduction

The global econoamy is trending towards an era of protectionism as can be seen from policies such as “Make America Great Again” and “Make in India”, thereby increasing the significance on exports and the manufacturing sector. As a corollary effect, the importance of Intellectual Property (IP) protection also increases due to the need to extend such to exports for its proper commercialization. On April 28, 2017, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2017 “Special 301” Report[1] which reviews global developments on trade and intellectual property (IP). The USTR placed India on the Priority Watch List and one of the reasons for doing so was an outdated and insufficient trade secrets legal framework.[2] It is pertinent to note that the so called Special 301 Report has vested interests of corporate lobbying from the likes of PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America), Business Software Alliance (BSA) and Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPOA). This piece will attempt to analyse India’s approach to trade secrets protection and its adequacy in terms of business.

  1. What are Trade Secrets?

Trade secret is a formula, process, device or other business information that is kept confidential to maintain an advantage over the competitors. It is the information which includes formula, pattern, compilation, programme, device, method, technique, or process, that derives independent economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable.[3] Therefore, the ingredients of trade secrets are- (a) it is such information not generally known to the public which in turn confers economic or commercial benefit through the maintenance of confidentiality and exclusivity, and (b) it is subjected to reasonable efforts of secrecy since disclosure would result in undue enrichment of others. For example, Coca-Cola’s formula for its aerated drinks and KFC’s recipe for its delicious fried chicken are considered to be trade secrets which have been preserved for many decades.

  1. Interface with Intellectual Property?

Article 1(2) of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”), states that intellectual property shall include protection of undisclosed information.[4] Article 39 of the TRIPS Agreement states that in the course of ensuring effective protection against unfair competition as provided in Article 10bis of the Paris Convention, with respect to information which is (a) a secret not generally known or readily accessible, (b) has commercial value by virtue of secrecy, and (c) has been subjected to reasonable steps for ensuring its secrecy, Member nations are to ensure that natural and legal persons have the possibility of preventing such information, within their control, from being disclosed to, acquired by, or used by others without their consent, in a manner contrary to honest commercial practice. It is submitted that the possibility referred to hereinbefore implies that trade secrets should be accorded protection within the legal system and not necessarily in the IP legislative framework of the said Member nation.

  1. India’s Policy Approach

The 1989 GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) discussion paper[5] of India sets out that as per India, trade secrets cannot be considered to be intellectual property rights, because while the fundamental basis of intellectual property right rests in its disclosure, publication and registration, trade secrets are premised upon secrecy and confidentiality. It may be noted that disclosure and publication are necessary before according the protection of exclusivity when viewed from the IPR context since the prosecution stage involves challenges and objections which test the grant of said exclusivity. The paper further goes on to state that the observance and enforcement of secrecy and confidentiality should be governed by contractual obligations and the provisions of appropriate Civil Law but not by intellectual property law.

On May 12, 2016 India approved the National IPR Policy with seven objectives and elaborative steps to be undertaken by the identified ministries/departments. One of these objectives was to ensure an effective legal and legislative framework for the protection of IPRs. The steps outlined to be taken towards attaining this objective include, among other things, identification of important areas of study and research for future policy development, and one such area identified was the protection of trade secrets.[6] Hence it may be noted that India has taken a step towards considering the protection of trade secrets under the ambit of IPR protection.

Subsequently, the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum held on October 20, 2016 in New Delhi included a meeting of the High-Level IP Working Group, a side-event on trade secrets, and several notable consensus outcomes related to promoting IP. India announced that it has taken important initiatives and steps, designed to enhance trade secrets protection in India, showing India’s strong commitment towards the importance of trade secrets protection. These initiatives and steps include the following:

  • A workshop was convened with government officials, academics, legal experts and representatives from U.S. and Indian industry that facilitated the exchange of information and best practices on trade secrets protection in both countries;
  • India noted that it protects trade secrets through a common law approach;
  • A toolkit would be prepared for industry, especially SMEs, to highlight applicable laws and policies that may enable them to protect their trade secrets in India;
  • A training module for judicial academies on trade secrets may also be considered;
  • A further study on various legal approaches to protection of trade secrets will also be undertaken by India.
  1. India’s Common Law Approach

The Delhi High Court in American Express Bank Ltd. v. Priya Puri,[7] defined trade secret as formulae, technical know-how or a method of business adopted by an employer which is unknown to others and such information has reasonable impact on organizational expansion and economic interests. Indian courts have approached trade secrets protection on the basis of principles of equity, action of breach of confidence and contractual obligations.

  • Equity

In John Richard Brady v. Chemical Process Equipments P. Ltd.,[8] it was held that independent of an underlying contract or in the absence of one, he who has received information in confidence is not allowed to take unfair advantage of it. This lays down that undue enrichment at the expense or detriment of another goes against the tenets of equity and fairness which need not be dependent on contractual obligations.

  • Breach of Confidence

In Zee Telefilms Ltd. v. Sundial Communications Pvt. Ltd.,[9] it was laid down that in an action of breach of confidence, the obligation of confidence is not limited to the original recipient but also extends to those persons who received the information with knowledge acquired at the time or subsequently that it was originally given in confidence. In Diljeet Titus v. Alfred Adevare & Ors, it was held that the Court must step in to restrain a breach of confidence independent of any right under law and that such an obligation need not be expressed but be implied and the breach of such confidence is independent of any other right. Therefore, it is submitted that the protection of trade secrets does not always necessarily stem from the owner of such secret having a right per se in respect of the same but from the implied obligation to maintain confidence by virtue of the nature of trade secrets in general.

  • Contractual Obligations

In Niranjan Shankar Golikari v. Century Spinning[10], it was held that negative covenants in employment agreements pertaining to non-disclosure of confidential information operative during the period of the contract of employment and even thereafter, are generally not regarded as restraint of trade and therefore do not fall under Section 27[11] of the Contract Act, 1872 as a former employee should not be allowed to take unfair advantage of the employer’s trade secrets which are vital for business. Post service restraint in maintaining confidentiality and also carrying on any other business for a limited period is permissible under the exception to Section 27 of the Contract Act, as was held in Homag India Pvt. Ltd. v. Mr. Ulfath Ali Khan.[12]

  1. Conclusion

It is submitted that as explained hereinabove, the common law trinity of equity, breach of confidence and contractual obligations for the protection of trade secrets is well suited to business requirements in India. India’s position should not be mistaken to connote that there is insufficient protection accorded to trade secrets and confidential information in the country. In fact, it must be clarified that Intellectual Property may not be the correct form of protection accorded to trade secrets. Trade Secrets rely on their nature of secrecy which precludes the quid pro quo disclosure required by the State before granting a statutory right of monopoly. Moreover, secrecy prevents the subject matter from being tested with regards to the scope of “has commercial value” and “has been subjected to reasonable steps of secrecy”. It is also pertinent to note that statutory enactment may not be sufficient to define the scope of what constitutes trade secret and protection thereof which could be more adequately handled on a case to case basis by the common law approach. It would be apposite to mention that legal proceedings and pleadings pertaining to trade secrets should be based on high modicum of confidentiality to protect the nature of the information as such.]

Author: Pratik Das, Legal Intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be contacted at info@khuranaandkhurana.com

References :

[1] Available at https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/301/2017%20Special%20301%20Report%20FINAL.PDF

[2] In the International IP Index, 2017 released by the U.S Chamber of Commerce, India was ranked 43 out of 45 countries in terms of the IP regime existing in the said countries; available at https://www.uschamber.com/event/2017-international-ip-index-the-roots-innovation

[3] Black’s Law Dictionary, Ed. 8, cited in Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. v. Mehar Karan Singh, 2010 (112) BOM LR  3759.

[4] All categories of IP that are the subject of Part II, Sections 1 to 7 of the Agreement; Section 7 is titled as “Protection of undisclosed information”.

[5] MTN.GNG/NG11/W/37.

[6] Paragraph 3.8.4, National IPR Policy, 2016.

[7] (2006) HI LLJ 540 (Del).

[8] AIR 1987 Delhi 372.

[9] 2003 (27) PTC 457 (Bomb).

[10] AIR 1967 SC 1098.

[11] Agreement in restraint of trade is void.

[12] M.F.A. No. 1682/2010 C/W M.F.A. No. 1683/2010 (CPC) decided on 10.10.2012, Karnataka High Court.

THE EXCLUSIVITY OF BRAND TAGLINES

Brand taglines are catch phrases which serve to draw a connection for consumers with the business’ products and services, and the concerned brand in general. A particular sequence of words repetitively used in the promotion of a brand or business in relation to its products and services often finds a place in the associative memory of the public. For example, when coming across the catch phrase “Finger lookin’ good”, one is instantly reminded of KFC’s sumptuous range of food products.Similarly, the tagline “Just Do It” is commonly associated with the brand NIKE and the phrase, “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard” connotes a connection with Mastercard.

Taglines are primarily used for advertising as they are memorable, differentiate the brand and impart certain emotions regarding the brand. The said exclusive association also flows from the mere mention of the brand, for example when one refers to Mc’donalds, the phrase “I’m Lovin’ It” automatically comes to mind, thereby indicating that some sort of intangible ownership of the particular phrase exists. This short note will attempt to elucidate upon whether and if so, what type of intellectual property protection is accorded to taglines or trade slogans with specific reference to the Indian context.

Scope of Brand Taglines as Trademarks

Section 2(m) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 defines “mark” as including a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any combination thereof. It is seen that the legislation provides for a tagline or combination of words to be included within the ambit of the definition of mark.

Trademark is defined under the Act as a mark capable of being represented graphically and of being able to distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of others in the course of trade.[1] Therefore, it is seen that a brand tagline is capable of being reduced to two-dimensional representation on paper. It is submitted that the distinctiveness criterion has a close nexus with Section 9(1) of the Trademarks Act under absolute grounds for refusal of registration.

In order for a brand tagline to qualify as a trademark, it must be distinctive,by acquiring secondary meaning and goodwill,and must not be descriptive of thefeatures of the products and services in respect of which it is used. The brand tagline by itself also must not indicate anything which has become customary in the established trade practices of that particular business.

Distinctiveness of the Generic

The Karnataka High Court in Reebok India Company v. Gomzi Active[2] has held that the person claiming the benefit of distinctive usage has to establish that over a period of time the concerned trade slogan has developed a secondary meaning and goodwill.[3] The Court accepted Reebok’s (Defendant) contention that the phrase “I AM WHAT I AM” is generic in nature and has not any acquired distinctive character in relation to the goods produced by Gomzi Active.[4]It was further held that both parties were operating under different and distinct trade names and by the mere use of the common phrase and expression “I AM WHAT I AM” it cannot be said that a customer with reasonable prudence would be misled to purchase the products manufactured by Reebok mistaking them for the products manufactured by Gomzi Active.[5] It is submitted that extensive advertisement through various modes and subsequent inherent association by consumers of the brand tagline with brand’s products and services would satisfy the test of distinctiveness even if concerned tagline is a common and generic phrase.

Descriptiveness and Commercial Features

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in a petition for special leave to appeal[6] upheld a Division Bench decision of the Delhi High Court in Procter & Gamble Manufacturing (Tianjin) Co. Ltd. &Ors. v. Anchor Health & Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd.[7], wherein the issue of distinctiveness and descriptiveness of brand taglines was discussed and elaborated.[8]The Court held that

  • The expression “ALLROUND PROTECTION” in Anchor’s advertisements and on its product is covered within the meaning of Section 2(m) & (zb) of the Act.

  • There is a difference between specific descriptiveness and generic descriptiveness.Forexample,a particular tagline may be descriptive of such features that are unique to the brand’s products but not generic features of the said products. (It is pertinent to note that Anchor was the first in the industry to use “ALLROUND PROTECTION”)

It is submitted that the Court in a way has interpreted a brand’s tagline or its“communicated commercial essence”tobe considered as a unique feature of its products and services, while deciding that is not a descriptive tagline.

Expressions of Customary Trade Practice

In Stokely Van Camp Inc v. Heinz India Pvt Ltd.[9], the Delhi High Court Division bench held that the trade slogan “Rehydrate Replenish Refuel” used in respect of Gatorade, even though a registered slogan mark, cannot be granted protection since in the energy drink market it has become customary and in fact necessary to describe products as such. Therefore, the Court held the defendant’s use of the expression “Rehydrates fluids, Replenishes vital salts, Recharges glucose” will fall within the ambit of Section 30 (2)(a) of the Trademarks Act, wherein a registered trademark is not infringed when the alleged infringing mark/expression is used to indicate features and characteristics of the products in respect of which it is used.

Therefore, it is seen that brand taglines have been recognised as trademarks in India provided they have acquired distinctiveness through goodwill and secondary meaning. It is also seen that trade slogans can be used to describe particular unique commercial features of the brand’s products and services.

Scope of Brand Taglines as Copyrights

Copyright subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematographic films and sound recordings.[10]The Delhi High Court in Pepsi Co. Inc. and Anrv. Hindustan Coca Cola and Ors.,held that advertising slogans are not to be accorded protection under the Copyright Act and they may be protected under the law of passing off.[11] The Court also opined that although the task of devising advertising slogans often requires a high level of skill and judgment but they will usually not qualify as original literary works.Law of passing off is not limited to names but is wide enough to encompass other descriptive materials including slogans, as part of goodwill built by extensive advertisement.[12]

Further, in Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. v DharampalSatyapal Ltd. & Another[13], the Delhi High Court followed the ratio of Pepsi Co and held that the advertising slogan “ShauqBadiCheezHain” is a mere combination of common words and hence cannot be granted protection as a literary or artistic work under the Copyright Act since they are as such not an outcome of great skill, and at best can be given protection under the law of passing off provided the requisite case is made out for passing off.

It is submitted that the reason as to why advertising slogans or brand taglines are usually not granted copyright protection is due to the generic use of words in such taglines. Brand taglines are often arrived at after much deliberation and exercise of intellectual activity and hence it may be argued to come under the ambit of originality and creativity in order to be treated as literary or artistic works.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is submitted that a particular brand tagline may be accorded protection as a trademark if it satisfies the distinctiveness and non-descriptiveness criteria. In case of Tagline comprising of common words or generic phrase, it is through extensive use, advertising and campaigning that a tagline or slogan acquires secondary meaning to the extent consumers and the general public start associating it exclusively with the concerned brand or business. Therefore, proper documentation and detailed records regarding the use and advertising of brand taglines are essential for the purpose of preventing the dilution of goodwill created with the public.

It is also to be noted that brand taglines are usually not granted copyright protection due to the use of generic common-place words and the Courts are reluctant in considering them to be original literary or artistic works.

About the Author: Pratik Das, Legal Intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at abhijeet@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Section 2(zb), Trademarks Act, 1999

[2] 2007 (34) PTC 164 (Karn)

[3]Ibid at paragraph 11

[4]Ibid at paragraph 12

[5]Ibid at paragraph 16

[6]C. Nos. 15928-15929/2014

[7]2014 (59) PTC 421 (Del)

[8]Ibid at paragraph 10

[9]MIPR 2010 (3) 273 at paragraph 9

[10] Section 13(1)(a), Copyright Act, 1957

[11] 94(2001)DLT 30 at paragraph 70

[12]Ibid at paragraph 68

[13] 2012 (51) PTC 251 (Del) at paragraph 14

Revised Guidelines for Examination of Computer-related Inventions (CRIs)

On 30th June 2017, the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks (CGPDTM) published Revised Guidelines for Examination of Computer-related Inventions (CRIs) that are applicable with immediate effect. The revised guidelines have replaced the Guidelines for Examination of CRIs, published on 19th February, 2016. The revised guidelines are short and precise as compared with the previous versions and have relaxed the criteria for patentability of the CRIs.

The heart of the 2016 guidelines was a three stage test to examine a CRI application, according to which the Examiners may:

  • Properly construe the claim and identify the actual contribution
  • If the contribution lies only in mathematical method, business method or algorithm, deny the claim
  • If the contribution lies in the field of computer programme, check whether it is claimed in conjunction with a novel hardware and proceed to other steps to determine patentability with respect to the invention. The computer programme in itself is never patentable. If the contribution lies solely in the computer programme, deny the claim. If the contribution lies in both the computer programme as well as hardware, proceed to other steps of patentability.

Therefore, the requirement of a novel hardware was apparent under the three step test laid in 2016 guideline. The revised guidelines have however done away with this test. The revised guidelines focus on substance over form and states:

If, in substance, claims in any form such as method/process, apparatus/system/device, computer program product/ computer readable medium belong to the said excluded categories, they would not be patentable. Even when the issue is related to hardware/software relation, the expression of the functionality as a method is to be judged on its substance. It is well-established that, in patentability cases, the focus should be on the underlying substance of the invention, not the particular form in which it is claimed. The Patents Act clearly excludes computer programmes per se and the exclusion should not be allowed to be avoided merely by camouflaging the substance of the claim by its wording.

The revised guidelines further discuss determination of excluded subject matter relating to CRIs. According to the revised guidelines, it is important to ascertain from the nature of the claimed CRI whether it is of a technical nature involving technical advancement as compared to the existing knowledge or having economic significance or both, and is not subject to exclusion under Section 3 of the Patents Act.

Further, the sub-section 3(k) excludes mathematical methods or business methods or computer programme per se or algorithms from patentability. Computer programmes are often claimed in the form of algorithms as method claims or system claims with some means indicating the functions of flow charts or process steps. It is well-established that, while establishing patentability, the focus should be on the underlying substance of the invention and not on the particular form in which it is claimed.

What is important is to judge the substance of claims taking whole of the claim together. If any claim in any form such as method/process, apparatus/system/device, computer program product/ computer readable medium falls under the said excluded categories, such a claim would not be patentable. However, if in substance, the claim, taken as whole, does not fall in any of the excluded categories, the patent should not be denied.           

Hence, along with determining the merit of invention as envisaged under Sections 2(1) (j), (ja) and (ac), the examiner should also determine whether or not they are patentable inventions under Section 3 of the Act.

Thus, it can be inferred that the revised guidelines focus on substance over form instead of novel hardware requirement. That is, while examining an application its substance is considered and a claim is taken as whole, if it does not fall in any of the excluded categories, the Examiner can proceed with other steps to determine patentability with respect to the invention.

Various stake holders associated with the software industry and Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) have been lobbying for such a change. ASSOCHAM trough a communication to the Prime Minister’s Office, urged the Prime Minister to bring out appropriate amendments to the 2016 guidelines and simplify the criteria in pursuance of becoming a leading global player in areas of research and development (R&D) and software products.

In the view of the foregoing, it can be concluded that as the CGPDTM has done away with the requirement of novel hardware, the patentability criteria is eased out. This not only facilitates the patentability of CRIs but also attracts big software MNCs and startups to invest in the area of development of software technologies.

About the Author: Ms. Prigya Arora, Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at prigya@iiprd.com

Google AdWords Giving a Good Wallop to Trademark Law

Introduction

In this era of globalization, we use Internet on a regular basis in our daily lives. People are continuously trying to gain more profits and for this they sometimes adopt illegal practices for promotion of their goods and services. These practices include unauthorized use of a registered name or mark owned by their competitor. This misuse leads to infringement of rights of legitimate owner of the name or mark. A specific kind of software is generally used by search engines, called spider or crawler to gather information of web pages available on the Internet. In order to attract customers towards their websites, owners are continuously making use of “Google AdWords”, “Meta-Tags”, “Hyper- Linking”, “Deep- Linking”, etc.

The present article outlines relation between “Use of Google AdWords” and “Trademark Infringement”. Basically, Google AdWords are keywords to search for a particular category of goods and/or services required by a person. When a person types a particular keyword on a search engine, the search engine matches the keyword entered by the person with the Google AdWords of various web-pages, and accordingly displays the most prominent results. By using the competitors name and/or mark with various permutations and combinations, search engine results are effortlessly manipulated to lure the visitors to one’s website. Google AdWords are used to set the web links in a prioritized manner based on the queries of user. They act as a code for providing information about the web page, which helps in diverting Internet traffic to their websites, causing considerable commercial loss to the legitimate registered owner.

 

What is a Google Ad-Word?

Google AdWord is a successful and client capturing advertisement option that is also a misleading source with respect to the Trade Mark rights of a trademark owner. Google AdWords are basically keywords that are used by an advertiser of certain goods and services to advertise their products, wherein when a specified keyword is searched for, the search engine shows the advertisements/websites of various advertisers. Hence, in this way, Google AdWords are used to divert Internet traffic towards a particular advertisement/website. The keywords used, generally denote someone’s area of business. It is an intelligent system that highlights ads/website depending on the keyword search. Its use is very simple and Google is paid by the website owner for each and every click on their website. AdWords is a paid referencing service started by Google for business promotion.

 

Misuse of Google AdWords leads to Trade Mark Infringement

This is a very important question as to how the use of Google AdWords may lead to Trade Mark infringement. If a person selects any word to be used as an AdWord, which is either similar or identical to a third party’s trademark, does the person infringe the rights of the trademark owner?  It was held in the very famous Consim- Google AdWords controversy[1] that if these AdWords are used by the person which is similar or identical to the third party’s trademark, then this amount to diluting/tarnishing the goodwill or reputation of the third party as this creates confusion in the mind of the customers of the person whose trademark is allegedly infringed. Therefore, this should not be allowed and becomes a case of trademark infringement.

Let us understand this with the help of an illustration: Suppose ‘A’ is the registered trademark owner of certain brand. Now ‘B’ is using AdWords which is in competition to the business owned by ‘A’, and uses Trade Mark of A as one of the paid keywords in the Google Adwords. ‘B’ is therefore diverting the internet traffic towards his own advertisement by using Trade Mark of A such that when users search for A, advertisement of B would also be shown, thereby causing damage to the goodwill/reputation owned by ‘A’, which is not allowed under Trade Marks Law. Hence, selection of Google AdWords becomes very relevant in the eyes of Trademark Law.

A case, Matrix Cellular (International) Services Limited v TSIM Communication Services Private Limitedand IP Attorneys, which represents the plaintiff in the Delhi High Court, wherein the Plaintiff, Matrix Cellular (International) Services Limited, is the proprietor/ owner of the trademark MATRIX since 1995 in respect of ‘International roaming Sim cards’. The defendant is accused of dishonestly using plaintiff’s trade mark i.e. MATRIX as Google AdWords to divert the users to their website by creating a confusion in their minds. The Court recognized that the defendant has engaged in dishonestly using Plaintiff’s trademark to gain profits and the same has resulted in infringement of Plaintiff’s trademark, as a result of which the Court was pleased to grant an interim injunction in the favor of the Plaintiff.

 

Exemplary Landmark Cases

  1. Consim Info Pvt. Ltd. vs. Google India Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. [2]

In this case, Appellant was a private limited company that provided online matrimonial services. In the course of its business, it had adopted several trademarks including Bharat Matrimony, Tamil Matrimony, Telugu Matrimony, Assamese Matrimony, etc. It had registered several domain names with these word marks. The respondents, Google India and its parent company were in the business of offering an advertisement program called AdWords. It generates ‘Sponsored Links’ on the right-hand side of any organic search results produced by Google, closely corresponding to the term searched for.

Google allows the Key Word to appear as a part of the advertisement as well. Therefore, the more the term is searched for, more the chances that it is a heavily demanded Key Word. The competitors would thus bid for the Key Words of other players in their business to catch the attention of user and thereby divert the business meant for such other players. The appellant filed a suit for permanent injunction restraining Google from infringing their trademarks by using them in the AdWords Program and Key Word suggestion Tool. It also restricted Google from passing off their services using the appellant’s trademarks and their closely resembling variants. The issue in question was whether such use of appellant’s trademark by Google’s Ad program amounted to trademark infringement.

Madras High Court thus concluded that the appellant had made a prima facie case and the balance of convenience lied in its favor and thus eventually granted an injunction.

  1. Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc. [3]

This is a very interesting case where the main question before the court was whether the use of trademark as keywords amount to Trademark infringement. The US Court of Appeal held that the use of trademark as keywords can be equated to the use of trademark as Meta –Tags. Therefore, Google was held liable for using the trademarked words in its Keyword Suggestion Tool. [4]

Conclusion

Thus, summarizing, use of Trademarks as a Google AdWords can be allowed if it comes under fair use, otherwise the same is restricted. Google is everywhere and it is estimated that approximately 80-85% of the world’s population uses it. If a person wants to mislead someone from the actual website of the proprietor to the impugned one it is the best platform available. Thus, customers are lured and are often misguided by the person violating by increasing the traffic and demand towards his/their website. The use of such Google AdWords is entirely dependent upon the facts and circumstances of case. Google AdWords being special keywords are embedded in web-pages and are often used by search engines in deciding the relevant websites to show in a search result. Therefore, the unfair and illegal use of the Google AdWords with respect to the Trade Marks leads to the Trademark infringement and irreparable damage to the legitimate owner. Choice of keywords becomes very important in this regard otherwise it would lead to infringement of other person’s rights. The concept of Google AdWords in relation to Intellectual Property should be understood and their misuse should be prevented.

About the Author: Ms. Yogita Agrawal, Legal Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at abhijeet@khuranaandkhurana.com

 

References

  1. Consim Info Pvt. Ltd. vs. Google India Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. 2013 54 PTC 578 (Mad).
  2. 2013 54 PTC 578 (Mad).
  3. 562 F.3d 123 (2nd Cir. 2009).
  4. Mattel Inc. and Others vs. Jayant Agarwalla and Others 2008 (38) PTC 416; Samsung Electronics Company Limited & Anr. vs. Kapil Wadhwa & Ors. C.S. (OS) No.1155/2011.

Meta-tagging vis-à-vis Trade Mark Misuse: An overview

Introduction:

For most of our questions, we rely on the internet for answers. While the debate on the reliability of information received on the internet continues, an equally enthralling race of which website will be the first to grab a searching consumer’s attention has begun.  With companies and organizations willing to pay a leg and an arm to ensure maximum footfalls on their websites, it is not surprising that such organizations are searching for loopholes to find ways to manipulate the search results on search engines. Website owners attract unwarranted attention to their website by making dubious use of Meta-tagging, framing, linking, deep linking. This article aims to introduce the concept of meta-tagging and provide an overview of the legal jurisprudence pertaining to unfair use of meta-tags with respect to Trade Marks.

What is a meta-tag?

Webpage are written in mark up languages, usually HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). HTML uses syntax of tags and mark ups to display data and to send signals across to the web operators to ensure correct outputs. While most tags have visual and aesthetic functions, a tag category named meta-tags allow hidden commenting with regard to the description of the said website, enabling the search engines to pull out relevant websites in reference to the key words searched by the end user.

With an option to doctor the HTML source code in such a manner that it will result in favorable SEO (Search Engine Optimization), any web designer may insert the trademarks or misleading meta-tag descriptions that are similar or deceptively identical to that of his/her competitor so as to enable the search engine to pop out his/her website as well when an unaware user searches for the competitor. In 1997[1], for the first time, under the Lanham Act [U.S. Trademark Act], a law firm dealing with domain name disputes sued a defendant whose meta-tags contained the terms ‘oppedahl’ and ‘larson’, the registered trademark of the law firm, so as to divert traffic that would gain them domain name registrations and web hosting clients. The Court restrained them from using the said terms without authorization as it resulted to unfair use under the Lanham Act.

Though the Indian law does not explicitly define ‘meta-tags’ in any statute so far, in 2014[2], a Single Judge Bench at the Bombay High Court, while addressing a domain name infringement of the plaintiff’s domain name “Shadi.com” by the defendants’ “ShadiHiShadi.com”, used meta-tags to identify malafide intention. The Hon’ble Court found that the defendant was using “Shadi.com”, which was the Plaintiff’s domain name, in their meta-tags to divert traffic and for the first time defined meta-tags as follows:

11. … Meta tags are special lines of code embedded in web pages. All HTML (hyper text markup language), used in coding web pages, uses tags. Meta tags are a special type of tag. They do not affect page display. Instead, they provide additional information: the author of the web page, the frequency of updation, a general description of the contents, keywords, copyright notices and so on. They provide structured data (actually, meta-data) about the web page in question. Meta tags are always used in web-pages ‘<head>…</head>’ section, before the display section that begins with the tag ‘<body>…</body>’.

Liability of misleading meta-tags

The question of whether ignorance of facts claimed by the defendants alleging cluelessness with regard to the insertion of such misleading meta-tags can be used as a defense has not yet surfaced in the Indian jurisprudence, the Belgian Courts, however, have taken a strong stand and made precedents indicating that the owner of the websites is to take the sole responsibility for the content on the website and the source code of the websites.  In a Belgian case[3], it was held that the Defendant alleged that since the meta-tags and its contents are deliverables of the web designer to the defendant, the defendant was not the appropriate authority to decide the contents of the meta-tags; the Belgian Courts firmly held that even so, the website owner is the sole proprietor of the website and besides, the contract executed between the website owner and the web designer exempted the latter from any liability related to the contents of such meta-tags.

In another Belgian case[4], further reiterating and reaffirming the previous judgment, the Court held that it the sole responsibility of the website owner to verify the contents of the source code and not of the administrator of the search engine, thus negating the Defendant’s contention that the administration of the search engine had not updated his database, thus resulting in misleading meta-tags.

Doctrine of Initial Interest Confusion

On the premise of meta-tagging creating confusion in the minds of the unaware consumer, when a consumer searches for a product or service online, it is an undisputed fact that the trademark laws that must guard unaware consumers from being duped by competitor websites who use misleading meta-tagging.

The doctrine of Initial Interest Confusion allows the plaintiff to be granted remedies for infringement even if the alleged infringement causes temporary confusion in the minds of the consumer, even if it is prior to any purchase of such goods or service. This doctrine was first applied in the case of Grotrian v Steinway & Sons[5], where the Court believed that the advertisements in the name of “Steinway” would mislead the consumer into “an initial interest, a potential Steinway buyer may satisfy himself that the less expensive Grotrian-Steinweg is at least as good, if not better, than a Steinway” but perhaps considering the consumer demographic of piano purchaser who may be more careful with their purchases thus, not resulting in any major financial losses for the plaintiff. Re-applying the principle of Initial Interest Confusion, Judge L. F. MacMahon, in the case of Mobil Oil Corporation, v. Pegasus Petroleum Corporation[6] where Mobil was the registered holder of the mark “Pegasis” and the logo mark of the Greek God Pegasis while Pegasis Petroleum’s logo did not resemble Mobil’s logo mark or word mark in any way, however, the Court concluded that Pegasis Petroleum was misleading potential customer in initial interest and hence, constitutes sufficient trademark injury.

Applying the principle of initial interest doctrine for the first time in meta-tags in the case of Brookfield Communications, Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corporation[7], the plaintiff, a registered proprietor of “Moviebuff” and defendant who used the same mark as description in their meta-tag, thus deceptively resulting both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s links to popped up in the search result, creating initial confusion in the minds of the consumers only for them to find themselves browsing through the defendant’s websites which was distinctively different from that of the plaintiff, amounted to trademark infringement under this doctrine.

In another interesting case[8], in an appeal for a dismissed suit, the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit (the Ninth Circuit) accepted the appellant’s contention that even though the consumers were aware that they were not  buying services from the appellant’s services, selling banner ads with appellant’s trademarks “playboy” and “playmate” still amounted to trademark infringement under this doctrine as the respondent was still feeding on the appellant’s good will to increase their sales.

Thus, it can be concluded that commercially using another’s trademark as a meta-tag seldom amounts to fair use. While the distinction between fair use and unfair use of meta-tags is often circumstantial and tricky, it is can be safely deduced that commercial gain, whether in the form of footfalls, good will or actual sale by the use of trademarks or deceptively similar trademarks in meta-tags or ads, as in the case of People Interactive (I) Pvt. Ltd. v. Gaurav Jerry & ors[9], still amounts to infringement.

Fair use in meta-tags

An Exception to the doctrine of initial interest confusion is the use of trademarks that may actually be descriptive of the service or goods provided by the website owner, which will amount to fair use of such terms or words for the purpose of a meta-tag. In the case of Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Welles[10], the defendant, Miss Welles, was a former playmate and hence use of the terms “playboy”, “playmate of the year” and “playmate of the month” among other terms in the meta-tags of her website did not amount to infringement as such use was permitted on the ground that the terms were descriptive of the kind of service her website provided and for describing herself.

Another exception to the doctrine is the use of trademarks in meta-tags so as to attract customers to view the opinion of a certain product or service so expressed. This exception was precedented in the case of Bally Total Fitness v. Faber[11] where the defendant maintained a sub-domain called “Bally Sucks” and justified this use of the trademark “Bally” as a consumer criticism acknowledging the use of the registered trademark to attract customers so that one searches for the term ‘Bally’ on the search engine, both the plaintiff and defendant’s site would be pop up and an average user shall have the option to obtain complete information about ‘Bally’ including the opinion of others on ‘Bally’ and removing the said meta-tags would alienate the user from complete and total information regarding the mark “Bally”. Comparative statements in meta-tags also categorizes as fair use of trademarks in meta-tags[12]

Thus, summarizing, use of trademarks in meta-tags purely for describing goods or services of the said website or as ensuring opinions have been reached or even as to compare competitive brands may be allowed under fair use, however, such use is strictly circumstantial and depends largely on the facts of the case.

Conclusion

The use and misuse of intellectual property on the internet is still a new terrain that needs to be discovered for our legal system. To add to this, while our nation neither recognizes net neutrality as an unfettered right nor complete and absolute intellectual property rights, thus, leading misleading meta-tags to be a huge grey area where every verdict will be based on circumstances than concrete laws and predetermined principles. India has long started recognizing the malpractices in the use of meta-tags and search engines that amount to malicious corruption of search results for the end user but we, as a nation, do not have any concrete laws in place to regulate the use of such tags except a few precedents[13] to formulate basic rules to be abided. The need for statutory laws to address cyber security for intellectual property is being felt now more than ever with the government preferring e-commerce over off-line retail and the netizens have no choice now but to wait and watch for some provisions to be made.

Amruta Mahuli, Legal Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at mumbai@khuranaandkhurana.com

[1] Oppedahl & Larson v. Advanced Concepts, Civ. No. 97-Z-1592 (D.C. Colo., July 23, 1997)

[2] People Interactive (I) Pvt. Ltd. v. Gaurav Jerry & ors., NMS (L) NO. 1504 of 2014 in SUIT (L) NO. 622 OF 2014

[3] Belgacom v. Intouch, 15 October 1999, (translation in) Computerrecht, 2000, Nr. 5, 245-247

[4] NV Resiplast v. BVBA Resin, 4 February 2002

[5] Grotrian v Steinway & Sons, 365 F. Supp. 707 (1973)

[6] Mobil Oil Corporation, v. Pegasus Petroleum Corporation, 818 F.2d 254 (2d Cir. 1987)

[7] Brookfield Communications, Inc. v. West Coast Entertainment Corporation 174 F.3d 1036 (9th Cir. 1999)

[8] Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Netscape Communications Corp., 354 F.3d 1020 (9th Cir. 2004)

[9] Ibid. 2

[10] Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Welles , 7 F.Supp.2d 1098 (S.D. Cal. 1998)

[11] Bally Total Fitness v. Faber, 29 F.Supp.2d 1161 (C.D. Cal. 1998)

[12] FS 2434/97, Hillerod fodgeret, November 17, 1997.

[13] Mattel, Inc. and Others vs. Jayant Agarwalla and Others, 2008 (38) PTC 416; Consim Info Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Google India Pvt. Ltd. & Ors, 2013(54)PTC578(Mad); Samsung Electronics Company Limited & Anr. vs. Kapil Wadhwa & Ors., C.S. (OS). No.1155/2011

Cartier International AG and Ors.  Vs.  Gaurav Bhatia and Ors.

Citation: 226 (2016) DLT 662

Introduction

As per a study conducted in 2016 by OECD (Organisation Economic Cooperation and Development) and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office, India ranks amongst the top five exporters of counterfeit products. Inspite of the legislative authorities providing stringent anti-counterfeit laws that award both civil and criminal remedies to the wronged, there still exist rampant export of fake goods and parallel exports that have caused grave losses in terms of goodwill and revenue to number of companies in various industries.

In the present case, Plaintiff filed an injunctive suit against the Defendants who was the proprietor of several e-commerce websites that dealt in trading of international luxury products.

Parties

  1. Plaintiff No. 1, Cartier International A.G., is the proprietor of the trademark CARTIER since 1847. The trademark CARTIER has also been recognized as a well known mark under section 2(zg) of the Trademarks Act, 1999.
  1. Plaintiff No. 2, Officine Panerai AG, is the proprietor of the trademark PANERAI since 1860.
  1. Plaintiff No. 3, Richemont International S.A., is the proprietor of the trademarks VACHERON CONSTANTIN and JAEGER LECOULTRE. Plaintiff No. 3 has been engaged in manufacture and sale of watches under the trademark VACHERON CONSTANTIN since 1819 and under the trademark JAEGER LECOULTRE since 1903.
  1. The Plaintiffs are part of Richemont Group. Plaintiff Nos. 2 and 3 deal in watches and other horological and chronometric instruments while plaintiff No. 1 deals in jewellery, writing instruments and leather goods as well.
  1. Defendant No. 4 is a company trading under the name and style of Digaaz e-Commerce Pvt. Ltd. and that defendant Nos. 1 to 3 are the directors thereof.

Brief facts

  1. The defendants operate an e-commerce website http://www.digaaz.com, where they offer lifestyle and fashion products for sale. The defendants have been found to be offering for sale and supplying huge quantities of counterfeit products bearing trademarks and logos of various luxury brands including the plaintiffs on their website http://www.digaaz.com.
  1. Many customers have already been cheated by the defendants who have purchased large quantities of counterfeit products, including those bearing the plaintiffs’ trademarks. Subsequently, complaints were lodged in the Cyber Cell. The matter was still pending against them and was at the stage of filing charge sheet.
  1. The plaintiffs came to know in February, 2014 that the defendants were selling and supplying counterfeit products of various luxury brands including those of the plaintiffs on their website http://www.digaaz.com and issued cease and desist notices to them on 20th February, 2014, which were left unanswered.
  1. The volume of counterfeit goods sold by the defendants demonstrates that the defendants were seasoned infringers and counterfeiters with a regular supply of counterfeit goods. Many of the right holders of these brands had instituted proceedings against the defendants before this Court and have obtained orders restraining the defendants from selling counterfeit products bearing their respective trademarks and logos.
  1. The Chandigarh Cyber Cell’s investigation and raid confirm that the defendants were offering for sale of counterfeit products including those bearing the suit trademarks on the impugned websites http://www.digaaz.com, http://www.watchcartz.com and http://www.luxecart.com. The Cyber Cell also confirmed that the defendants procure the counterfeit products from New Delhi, Ludhiana and Chandigarh at throw away prices and sell these at exorbitant rates cheating both customers and brand owners and making enormous illegal profits in the process.
  1. On 8th October, 2014 defendant Nos.1 and 2 were arrested by the Cyber Cell and were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. The matter is still pending against them and is at the stage of filing charge sheet.
  1. The plaintiffs ultimately filed the present suit seeking permanent injunction restraining infringement of trademark, passing off and damages.

Issue

Whether Plaintiffs are entitled for permanent injunction against Defendants as prayed for?

Applicable laws/rule

Trade Marks Act, 1999

Section 135- Reliefs in suits for infringement or for passing off include temporary and permanent injunction on court‘s terms and at the option of the plaintiff, either damages or an account of profits, together with or without any order for the delivery-up of the infringing labels and marks for destruction or erasure.

Decision of the Court

  1. While holding that there is a prima facie case of infringement, the court delved into the issue of damages and punitive damages.
  1. In terms of Section 135 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, the plaintiffs in the instant suit opted for damages and the computation thereof was accepted by the court.
  1. The Court held that defendants have deliberately stayed away from the present proceedings with the result that an enquiry into their accounts for determination of damages could not take place. The Hon‘ble Court observed that allowing such conduct would give arise to situation where defendant who appears in Court and submits its account books would be liable for damages, while party who chooses to stay away from proceedings would escape the liability on account of failure of the availability of books of account.
  1. The Hon‘ble Court observed that this Court has in previous instances granted exemplary and punitive damages and referred to the case of Time Incorporated v. Lokesh Srivastava & Anr., (citation) where Justice R.C. Chopra observed that “time has come when the Courts dealing in actions for infringement of trademarks, copyrights, patents etc., should not only grant compensatory damages but also award punitive damages with a view to discourage and dishearten law breakers who indulge in violation with impunity out of lust for money, so that they realise that in case they are caught, they would be liable not only to reimburse the aggrieved party but would be liable to pay punitive damages also, which may spell financial disaster for them.”
  1. The Hon‘ble Court further referred to the case of Microsoft Corporation v. Rajendra Pawar & Anr.,2008 (36) PTC 697 (Del.) in which it was stated that: “Perhaps it has now become a trend of sorts, especially in matters pertaining to passing off, for the defending party to evade court proceedings in a systematic attempt to jettison the relief sought by the plaintiff. Such flagrancy of the Defendant’s conduct is strictly deprecatory, and those who recklessly indulge in such shenanigans must do so at their peril, for it is now an inherited wisdom that evasion of court proceedings does not de facto tantamount to escape from liability. Judicial process has its own way of bringing to tasks such erring parties whilst at the same time ensuring that the aggrieved party who has knocked the doors of the court in anticipation of justice is afforded with adequate relief, both in law and in equity. It is here that the concept of awarding punitive damages comes into perspective.
  1. In light of the above approaches of concurrent Benches, the Court in Cartier passed a decree of permanent injunction against the Defendant and proceeded to order the Defendants to furnish books of accounts to the Plaintiffs to compute exact damages. The Hon‘ble Court finally ordered punitive damages of Rs. 1 crore to be paid to the Plaintiffs, along with the costs.

Conclusion

This Judgment was much appreciated for the high punitive damages that were ordered. This judgment poses as a strong precedent for trademark infringement and anti-counterfeit cases. On analysing the judgment, it can be concluded that the following factors among other things were taken into consideration while granting punitive damages to the Plaintiffs: the Defendants’ absence in the proceeding, thus implying their complete dismissal and total disregard for the rule of law; the fraudulent techniques implemented by the Defendants to attract affluent consumers who would have otherwise been the Plaintiffs’ consumers and, blatant trademark infringement and sale of counterfeit products.

 

About the Author:  Nadine Kolliyi, Legal Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and Amruta Mahuli, Legal Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys who can be reached at mumbai@khuranaandkhurana.com.

Trademark Infringements: The big problems faced by foreign brands in Nepal

The government of Nepal is notorious for policy and procedural time wasting as far as providing services to businesses is concerned. The same has resulted in problems for businesses and industries to continue operating in Nepal. Among the several problems faced by them trademarks infringement of reputed foreign brands and multinational brands has become a major issue in recent years.

Going by the data of the Department of Industry (DoI), the government body falling under the Ministry of Industry which looks after the registration of industrial and intellectual property, 546 complaints of trademark violations has been registered till June 15, 2016 with most of the cases currently in the court. According to DoI, 90 disputes have so far been settled.

None the less, the sources reveal that the number of such cases can be as high as 1,200 with some of the cases continuing to go undecided for more than 15 years. Some of the trademark disputes include cases of Panparag, Dhara Oil, Rajanighandha, Havells, Pepsico and Kansai Nerolac, many of these are currently in court. Looking at these disputes it is clearly evident that most of the trademark infringement cases are of top Indian brands. Sources say that, these disputes have increased since 2003 after Nepal joined as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Experts point out that there is absence of proper policies and laws is the reason for the increasing number of trademark infringement cases.

As the current Design and Trade Mark Act, 2022 lacks clarity on security and registration of trademarks, among other things, the counterfeiting and theft of trademarks of globally recognized brands is on the rise, the experts say.

According to the Act, the ownership and rights are only established after the registration of trademarks in Nepal. “Using this provision, local companies here are registering and holding the trademarks of MNCs,” the expert says. According to the experts, this trend has been on the rise over the last decade.  There are several instances of registration of copied trademarks of Multi National Companies. When the true owners of the trademarks arrive in Nepal, they discover that their trademarks are already registered here by someone else.

The reasons for it are:

The wrong practice regarding the registration of duplicate or copied trademarks happens for several reasons. “The Market value of trademarks is the prime reason. A well recognized and established brand earns reputation and goodwill among the customers globally,” says the expert. This culture is increasing as the people involved are getting financial benifits. Those people who have got registered trademarks of foreign companies can bargain the ownership of the brands in Nepal.

Similarly, it is quite easy for the people involved in effortlessly accessing the already been established market by global reputed brands. The consumers usually do not purchase items or goods by going into the brand details. They are satisfied by buying items which look similar to original brands. “Many goods & items of globall brands are available in the local market without the registration of trademarks,” the expert says. Don’t care attitude of the true owners is also another reason for the increase in trademark infringement cases as they don’t register their trademarks in Nepal in time. The negligence of Department of Industry is also resulting in infringement of trademarks. “The department officials register the globally recognised trademarks without proper investigation of the ownership,”.

The Legal Weaknesses

The weak legal provision in Nepal is giving a fertile arena for malpractice regarding the trademarks registration. According to the Patent, Design and Trade Mark Act of 2022 counterfeiting and using of already registered trademarks is illegal. But, the law is weak when it is about punishment. According to the existing legal provisions, DoI can fine up to Rs 100,000 and seize related items from those people which are involved in trademark violations. “However, there are few instances in the past where people were punished for such deeds,” expert says, adding, “A well known case is the infringement of trademark of Goldstar brand shoes when the involved people were slapped with hard punishments.”

Inability to Reform Existing Law

The reason for trademark disputes directly relates to inability of Nepal in the formulation of policies with respect to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. In 2001, Nepal became a signatory of the landmark global deal. It constitutes definite provisions for protection of trademarks.  Even the international treaty was signed fifteen years back, the existing Act has not yet been amended or reformulated inline by the government.

The central agenda of this International treaty was the provision of protection to trademarks and services in Nepal. The popular trademarks are protected under the article 6bis of the treaty  without having to register in the signatory countries. Irrespective of this, the famous trademarks are suffering, due to the lack of appropriate legal provisions. On this, Senior Advocate, Sushil Kumar Pant argued that  “It clearly shows that our government and lawmakers either do not know the importance of these international treaties or are totally ignoring the significance of the conventions signed by the country,” at the law firm Jurist and Company. He also pointed out that the reasons for this are corrupt practices and dishonesty prevailing in the bureaucratic and political levels which hinders the formulation of policies to implement such essential international conventions.

Nepal has been given extension thrice for the implementation of the convention but it has already missed it twice. It missed the first deadline in 2006 thereafter it was provided the extension for the duration of 2007-2015. Again after missing it, now the country is provided with the extension upto 2021 for updating and reformulating its existing law.

Author: Shilpi Saxena, Jr. Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys can be reached at shilpi@iiprd.com.

Trade Mark Filing in Vietnam

Vietnam became a member of the TRIPS agreement on January 11th, 2007. Vietnam has a commendable intellectual property (IP) framework which includes several multilateral agreements and other relevant bilateral trade agreements. Having regard to the pace and growth of local and global economy, Vietnam enacted the Law on Intellectual Property Rights in 2005. The law provides protection to major IP rights in Vietnam: industrial property rights which include Patents, Design and Trade Marks; Copyright and rights in plant varieties. In addition to Intellectual Property Law of 2005, there exist other laws that govern other issues related to IPR, such as the 2004 Law on Competition and the 2005 Civil Code, along with precedents, circulars and notifications by respective authorities guiding IPR implementation in Vietnam.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, 2005

TRADE MARK FILING PROCEDURE:

2

Step 1: Filing:

  • Who may apply: Article 87 and 89:
  • Individuals
  • Organizations
  • Foreign nationals residing permanently
  • Foreign organizations having a production or trading establishment
  • Non-resident foreign nationals or organizations not having a production or trading establishment shall apply through a lawful representative.
  • Documents required: Article 105:
  • .Documents, samples, information identifying the mark claimed for protection in a mark registration application shall include:
  1. a) Samples of the mark and list of goods or services bearing the mark;
  2. b) Rules on using collective mark or Rules on using certification mark.
  • Description of sample in order to clarify its elements and meaning.
  • Filing Date: Article 108:
  • All applications shall be received by the State administrative authority.
  • The filing date shall be the one on which the application is received by the state administrative authority.
  • First to file: Article 90:
  • Where two or more applications are filed by several people to register the marks identical with or confusingly similar to each other, in respect of identical or similar goods or services, protection may only be granted to the valid application with the earliest date of priority or filing date among the applications that satisfy all the requirements.
  • Filing fees:
  • Fee for application filed in paper form without digital database of the whole content of the application: 180 thousand VND
  • Fee for application filed in paper form with digital database of the whole content of the application: 150 thousand VND
  • Fee for application filed online: 100 thousand VND
  • Additional fee for each product/service in excess of six: 30 thousand VND.

Step 2: Examination:

  • The application shall be examined within 1 month from the filing date (Article 119).
  • Formal Examination: Article 109:
  • To verify the formal validity of the application, an examination process shall be conducted.
  • Invalidity in the following circumstances:
  • The applicant does not fulfil the requirements of formality;
  • The subject matter of the application is not eligible for protection;
  • The applicant does not have the right to registration;
  • The application was filed in contrary to the mode of filing;
  • The applicant fails to pay the fees and charges.

Step 3: Acceptance/ Refusal:

  • The application for registration may be accepted with or without amendments.
  • Until the notice of refusal by the State administrative authority, the applicant shall have the following rights:
  • To make amendment or supplement to the application;
  • To divide the application;
  • To request for recording changes in name or address of the applicant;
  • To request for recording changes in the applicant as a result of assignment under the contract, as a result of inheritance, bequest, or under a decision of an authority;
  • Any amendment or supplement to an industrial property registration application must not expand the scope of the subject matter disclosed or specified in the application and must not change the substance of the subject matter claimed for registration in the application and shall ensure the unity of the application.
  • Fee for amending applications, including for request of supplement, separation, assignment, change (per each amendment/ application): 120 thousand VND.
  • Refusal: Article 117:

Refusal to register an application may be on the following grounds:

  • The subject matter claimed in the application does not fulfil the protection requirements;
  • The application satisfies all the conditions for the issue of a protection title but is not the application with the earliest filing date or priority date as in the case referred to in Article 90.1 of this Law.
  • The application falls within the cases referred to in Article 90.1 of this Law but a consensus of all the applicants is not reached.
  • The State administrative authority shall serve a notice of an intended refusal to grant a Protection Title, in which the reasons are clearly stated with a set time limit for the applicant to oppose to such intended refusal.
  • The State administrative authority shall serve a notice of the refusal to grant a Protection Title if the applicant has no objection or has unjustifiable objection to such intended refusal.

Step 4: Publication:

  • Article 110: An industrial property registration application which has been accepted as being valid by the State administrative authority shall be published in the Industrial Property Official Gazette.
  • Fee for publication of application, including application for amendment, supplement, separation, assignment (each application): 120 VND.
  • The application for registration shall be examined as to its substance within 6 months from the date of its publication.
  • Charge for substantive examination of application (for each group of six products/services) – without information searching charge: 300 thousand VND.

Step 5: Protection Title:

  • Article 93 stipulates the validity of the protection titles:
  • It is valid throughout the territory of Vietnam.
  • The registration of marks shall be valid up to 10 years from the date of filing. Their validity commences on the date of grant of protection.
  • It can be renewed indefinitely for consecutive terms of 10 years.
  • Rights accruing after registration: Article 123:
  • To use or permit others to use the industrial property object in accordance with Article 124 and Chapter X of the law (Transfer of rights: Assignment and Licensing):
  • Affixing the protected mark to goods, packages of goods, means of business or supplying services and communicating papers in business activities;
  • Circulating, or offering, advertising, storing for sale of, goods bearing the protected mark;
  • Importing goods or services bearing the protected mark.
  • The use of a trade name means the conduct of any acts for commercial purposes by using it to name oneself in business activities, expressing it in transaction documents, shop-signs, products, goods, and packages of goods and means of service and advertisements.
  • To prohibit others from using the industrial property object in accordance with Article 125 (Right to prohibit others from using industrial property objects);
  • To dispose of the industrial property object in accordance with Chapter X of this Law (Transfer of rights: Assignment and Licensing).
  • Fee for granting a Certificate for trademark registration: 120 thousand VND.

FEW IMPORTANT PROVISIONS PERTAINING TO TRADE MARK:

TRADEMARKS:

Article 4: Interpretation of terminologies:

  • Trademark is any sign used to distinguish goods or services of different organizations and individuals.
  • Trade name is a designation of an organization or individual used in business to distinguish the business entity bearing such designation from other business entities acting in the same field and area of business. The area of business stipulated in this paragraph shall be the geographical area where business entity has business partners, clients or reputation.

PART III of the law provides industrial property rights.

Section 4 dictates the protection requirements for marks. The concerned provisions are as under:

Article 72. General requirements for marks eligible for protection:

This Article stipulates the basic prerequisites of a mark to be able to seek protection:

A mark shall be eligible for protection if it meets the following conditions:

  1. Visible sign – form – letters, words, pictures, figures – including three-dimensional figures or a combination thereof, represented in one or more colors;
  2. Capable of distinguishing goods or services of the mark owner from those of others.

Article 73. Signs not protected as marks:

This Article provides for the exceptions. It states that the following signs shall not be protected as marks:

  1. Signs identical with or confusingly similar to the national flags, national emblems;
  2. Signs identical with or confusingly similar to emblems, flags, armorial bearings, abbreviations, full names of State agencies, political organizations, socio-political organizations, socio-political professional organizations, social organizations or socio-professional organizations of Vietnam or international organizations, unless permitted by such agencies or organizations;
  3. Signs identical with or confusingly similar to real names, alias, pen names or images of leaders, national heroes or famous persons of Vietnam or foreign countries;
  4. Signs identical with or confusingly similar to certification seals, control seals, warranty seals of international organizations which require that their signs must not be used, except where such seals are registered as certification marks by those organizations;
  5. Signs liable to mislead, confuse or deceive consumers as to the origin, functional parameters, intended purposes, quality, value or other characteristics of the goods or services.

Article 74. Distinctiveness of marks:

The most important characteristic of a mark is its distinctiveness or uniqueness. The IP law of Vietnam has one whole Article dedicated to the meaning of the term, and its limitations. Since the exceptions are clearly stated, no chance is left to vagueness or ambiguity.

  1. A mark shall be considered as distinctive if it consists of one or several easily noticeable and memorable elements, or of many elements forming an easily noticeable and memorable combination, and is not those signs provided for in paragraph 2 of this Article.
  2. A mark shall not be considered as distinctive if it is signs falling under one of the following cases:

a) Simple devices and geometric figures; numerals, letters, or words of uncommon languages, except for signs having been widely used and recognized as a mark;

b) Signs, symbols, pictures or common names in any language of goods or services that have been widely and often used and are common knowledge;

c) Signs indicating the time, place, method of production, kind, quantity, quality, property, composition, intended purpose, value or other characteristics, which is descriptive of the goods or services, except for signs having acquired distinctiveness through use before the filing of mark registration applications;

d) Signs describing the legal status and activity field of businesses;

dd) Signs indicating the geographical origin of the goods or services, except for signs having been widely used and recognized as a mark or signs registered as collective marks or certification marks as provided for in this Law;

e) Signs not being integrated signs which are identical with or confusingly similar to a registered mark in respect of identical or similar goods or services on the basis of a registration application having earlier filing date or earlier priority date, as applicable including applications filed under international treaties to which the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is party;

g) Signs identical with or confusingly similar to another person’s mark having been widely used and recognized in respect of the similar or identical goods/services as before the filing date or the date of priority, as the case may be;

h) Signs identical with or confusingly similar to another person’s mark already registered in respect of identical or similar goods or services the Mark registration Certificate of which has been terminated for no more than 5 years, except where the ground for such termination is non-use of the mark as provided for in subparagraph d paragraph 1 Article 95 of this Law;

i) Signs identical with or confusingly similar to another registered person’s mark recognized as well-known in respect of the goods or services that are identical with or similar to those bearing the well-known mark; or in respect of dissimilar goods/services if the use of such marks may prejudice the distinctiveness of the well-known mark or the registration of such signs is aimed at taking advantage of goodwill of the well-known mark;

k) Signs identical with or similar to another person’s trade name having been used if the use of such signs is likely to cause confusion to consumers as to the source of goods or services;

l) Signs identical with or similar to a geographical indication being protected if the use of such signs is likely to cause mislead consumers as to the geographical origin of goods;

m) Signs identical with or containing geographical indications or being translated from the meaning or transcription of the geographical indication being protected with respect to wines or spirits if such signs have been registered for use with respect to wines and spirits not originating from the geographical area bearing such geographical indication;

n) Signs identical with or insignificantly different from another person’s industrial design having been protected on the basis of an industrial design registration application with filing date or priority date earlier than those of the mark registration application.

Section 5: This section stipulates the protection requirements for trade names:

Article 76. General requirements for trade names eligible for protection

A trade name shall be eligible for protection if it is capable of distinguishing the business entity bearing such trade name from other business entities acting in the same field and locality of business.

Article 77. Subject matters not protected as trade names

Designations of State agencies, political organizations, socio-political organizations, social organizations, socio-professional organizations or those entities who are not engaged in business activities shall not be protected as trade names.

Article 78. Distinctiveness of trade names

Similar to marks, conditions for distinctiveness have been laid down for trade names as well.  A trade name shall be considered as distinctiveness if it meets the following conditions:

  1. To consist of a proper name, except where it has been widely known as a result of use;
  2. Not to be identical with or confusingly similar to a trade name having been used earlier by another person in the same field and locality of business;
  3. Not to be identical with or confusingly similar to another’s mark or a geographical indication having been protected before the date it is used.

Trademark Law Bangladesh: An Abridgment

Bangladesh is a signatory to the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement under the World Trade Organization (WTO), which came into force in 1995. TRIPS aim at harmonizing the intellectual property laws with most of the world. Hence, all the signatories of the agreement have a uniform IP law subject to minor modifications as allowed by the agreement. Bangladesh being in its transitional period complies with TRIPS to a larger extent (not fully compliant with international IP regime) and still in its process of harmonizing with TRIPS policy. Let’s take a sneak peek into the functionality of IP laws in Bangladesh in relation to the various sections prominently referred to from The Trademark Act, 2009:

The Trademarks Act, 2009:

Meaning of Trademark:

A trademark is any symbol, word, number, phrase, design, or any combination thereof which is used to identify the source of goods or services. The Trademarks Act, 2009 defines the term in Section 2(8). It provides for the following classification of marks:

  • Registered Trademark
  • Mark
  • Certification Trademark

A trademark is:

  • a registered trademark or a mark used in relation to goods so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods and the person having the right as proprietor to use the mark;
  • a mark used in relation to a service so that it leads to the indication that the person has the right to use the mark in the course of trade as a proprietor;
  • a mark used or proposed to be used (in future) in relation to any service or goods indicating a connection, between the goods and the person having the right, either as proprietor or as registered user (permitted user), to use the mark.

A trademark is generally used to identify the source for goods or services. Bangladesh has adopted the 9th Edition of NICE classification of goods and services. Hence, there are total 45 classes of goods and services, out of which 1-34 are goods, and 35-45 are services.

Procedure for Registration:

There are various steps involved in the procedure for registration:

Step 1: FILING OF APPLICATION – SECTION 15

  • Any person claiming to be the proprietor can file an application for registration of a mark used or proposed to be used.
  • The person(s) shall file separate application for each class of goods or services.
  • The application must be filed at the Head office or any branch of the Trademark Registry having territorial jurisdiction over the principal place of business. If the person does not carry on business in Bangladesh, the application must be filed in the office having territorial jurisdiction over the place mentioned in the address for service in Bangladesh.
  • Requirements:
  • Name of the Applicant(s)
  • Address and Nationality
  • Specification of goods
  • Fees: 3500 taka
  • Form- “TM-1”.

Step 2: ACCEPTANCE – SECTION 15

  • The Registrar may accept the application absolutely and go ahead with further process.
  • He may refuse to accept the application recording the grounds of refusal.
  • He may conditionally accept the application, i.e. subject to amendments, modifications, conditions or limitations.

Step 3: ADVERTISEMENT – SECTION 17

  • After the conditional or absolute acceptance of the application, the Registrar may advertise the application in the prescribed manner along with the prescribed fees.
  • If there are any corrections in the application under Section 19, it will be advertised again after such correction to the satisfaction of the Registrar.
  • Form- “TM-9”
  • Fees- 1000 taka.

Step 4: OPPOSITION – SECTION 18

  • Within 2 months from the date of advertisement of the application, any person may oppose the same by serving due notice to the Registrar via form TM-5 along with the prescribed fees (2000 taka).
  • He shall, within 1 month from the date of receipt of the notice, serve a copy of the same to the applicant.
  • Thereafter, the applicant shall file a counter within 2 months from the date of receipt of such notice to him via form TM-6 and the prescribed fees (1500 taka). If a counter is not filed, the application shall be deemed to have been abandoned.
  • The Registrar shall serve a copy of such counter to the opponent.
  • All the evidences upon which the applicant and opponent rely shall be submitted in the prescribed time and manner to the Registrar, and they shall be granted an opportunity of being heard if so desired upon application via form TM-7 or TM-23 along with prescribed fees (1000 taka).
  • The Registrar, after following due process of opposition shall decide whether to accept, conditionally accept, or reject the application.
  • Notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, the opposition proceedings must be wound up/ concluded in 120 working days.

Step 5: REGISTRATION – SECTION 20

  • If the application is accepted or not opposed or the notice period of opposition has expired, or it has been opposed and the decision is in favour of the applicant, the trademark shall be registered by the Registrar.
  • The applicant shall be issued a certificate of registration with the seal of the trademark registry.
  • Such certificate shall be issued within 150 working days from the date of filing of application.
  • The duration of the trademark shall be of 7 years, and can be renewed by paying the prescribed fees, from time to time.
  • The Registrar may renew the registration of the trademark for 10 years from the date of expiration of original registration or the last renewed registration on application by the applicant.

It takes around 24-36 months to get a trademark registered in Bangladesh in a smooth case.

Workflow:

1

Rights conferred by Registration:

Registration of a trademark confers the following rights under Section 25:

  • Exclusive right to use the trademark in relation to those goods and services for which it has been registered.
  • Obtain relief against infringement of the same in accordance with the Act.

It also provides that no person except the registered proprietor/ owner of the trademark shall use the same in respect of the goods and services for which it is registered under the Act, without the consent of the registered owner.

The Act, just like Indian law, also incorporates the common law remedy of “Passing Off’ in its Section 24. It provides that no infringement action be instituted for an unregistered Trade Mark. Secondly, nothing in the Act shall be deemed to affect the right of action against any person for passing off goods or services of another person and any other related remedies.

Infringement:

Section 26 deals with the Infringement of Trademarks. Usage by a person other than a registered proprietor of the identical or similar trademarks, the Trade Mark deemed to be infringed. On the other hand, Section 27 deals with the acts that do not amount to infringement. Lawful user, permitted use, etc. are provided in the section.

Assignment and Transmission:

The Act, in Chapter V, comprehensively provides for assignment and transmission of a registered trademark by the registered proprietor, with or without the goodwill (Section 34).  An unregistered trademark shall not be assignable or transmissible except along with the goodwill of the business concerned (Sec 35) under certain circumstances provided in the same section, it can be assigned or transmitted without the goodwill. Moreover, Section 38 incorporates assignment and transmission otherwise than in connection with the goodwill with conditions of fulfillment attached.

Offences and Penalty:

Section 71 firstly discloses the meaning of applying trademarks and trade descriptions, and secondly Section 72 mentions the circumstances when the Trade Marks are falsified or falsely applied. The penalties under the Act are as under:

  • Section 73: Penalty for falsifying or falsely applying Trademark: Imprisonment may extend to 2 years, but not less than 6 months, and/or fine which may extend to 2 lac taka, but not less than 50 thousand taka. For a second or subsequent conviction, the imprisonment would range from a minimum of 1 year to 3 years, and/or fine extendable up to 3 lac taka, but not less than 1 lac taka.
  • Section 74: Penalty for selling goods to which a false trademark or trade description is applied: Imprisonment for a term up to 2 years, and/or fine. For a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment for a term up to 3 years, and/or fine.
  • Section 76: Penalty for falsely representing a trademark as registered: Imprisonment for a term up to 1 year, but not less than 6 months, and/or fine up to 1 lac, but not less than 50 thousand taka.
  • Section 77: Penalty of improperly describing a place of business as connected with the Trademarks office: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year but not less than 6 months, and/or with fine which may extend to 1 lac taka but not less than 50 thousand taka.
  • Section 78: Penalty for falsification of entries in the Register: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year but not less than 6 months, and/or fine, which may extend to taka 1 lac (84,600 INR approx.) but not less than 50 thousand taka.