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Entitlement of Ordinary Dictionary word to be declared as well known Trademark

This article discusses a recent judgment by the Delhi High Court, which dealt with the issue of whether an ordinary dictionary word can be declared a well-known trademark. The Court's decision highlights the importance of acquired distinctiveness and distinctive fashion in determining the status of a well-known mark. The case involved a red-box device mark 'SUPREME,' and the Court granted protection to the specific logo while cautioning against blanket protection for the ordinary dictionary word 'SUPREME' itself.

Many trademarks comprise unique or invented words, there is a significant question about whether ordinary dictionary words can be eligible for well-known trademark status. A recent judgment by the Delhi High Court addresses this issue, shedding light on the criteria for recognizing ordinary dictionary words as well-known trademarks.

The Case and the Court's Observations:
The case before the Delhi High Court involved a red-box device mark 'SUPREME' used for readymade clothing. The plaintiff claimed that the mark had acquired a well-known status and sought protection against unauthorized use by others.

The Court's decision was based on several key observations:
Reputation and Acquired Distinctiveness:
The Court analyzed the plaintiff's averments, submitted documents, and the reputation of the 'SUPREME' red-box device mark. It concluded that the plaintiff had acquired a 'well-known' status for the specific logo.

Secondary Meaning:
The Court found that the red-box device 'SUPREME' had acquired a secondary meaning due to extensive and distinct usage in the market. Secondary meaning arises when consumers associate a particular word or symbol with a specific source or brand.

Period of Usage:
The Court considered the 29-year period during which the red-box device mark 'SUPREME' had been in use for readymade clothing. This long-term usage played a crucial role in establishing the mark's well-known status.

Well-Known Mark Declaration:

Considering the reputation, acquired distinctiveness, and extended usage, the Court declared the red-box device mark 'SUPREME' as a 'well-known' mark specifically in relation to apparel and clothing.

The Limitation on Protection for Ordinary Dictionary Words:
Despite recognizing the well-known status of the 'SUPREME' red-box device mark, the Court issued a cautionary note regarding the ordinary dictionary word 'SUPREME' itself. The Court clarified that the declaration of well-known status was limited to the specific red-box logo and not the word 'SUPREME' in a general sense.

Implications of the Judgment:
The Delhi High Court's judgment has significant implications for the protection of ordinary dictionary words as trademarks. It establishes that such words can be declared well-known trademarks if certain conditions are met:

Acquired Distinctiveness:

The primary requirement is to prove that the ordinary dictionary word has acquired distinctiveness through extensive use and association with the plaintiff's brand.

Distinctive Fashion:
Additionally, the word must be used in a distinctive fashion, often in combination with unique elements like logos or stylization, to set it apart from its common meaning.

The Delhi High Court's recent judgment clarifies the possibility of an ordinary dictionary word being declared a well-known trademark. Businesses seeking such protection must demonstrate acquired distinctiveness and ensure that the word is used in a distinctive fashion.

While the judgment offers a pathway for the protection of ordinary words, it also rightly emphasizes the importance of acquired distinctiveness in safeguarding trademarks and preventing undue monopolization.

The Case Law Discussed:
Case Title: Chapter 4 Corp Vs Dhanpreet Singh Trading as Punjabi Adda
Date of Judgement:11.07.2023
Case No.CS Comm 782 of 2022
Neutral Citation:2023:DHC:4922
Name of Hon'ble Court:High Court of Delhi
Name of Hon'ble Judge:Prarhiba M Singh, H.J.

Information contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same should not be treated as substitute for legal advice as it is subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the facts and law involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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