File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Trademark: A Basic Insight

What is Trademark?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO):
"A trademark is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Trademarks are protected by intellectual property rights."
In simple language, a Trademark (or Trade Mark) is a unique symbol which is capable of identifying as well as differentiating products or services of one organization from those of others. The word 'Mark' stands for a sign, design, phrase, slogan, symbol, name, numeral, devise, or a combination of these. Essentially, the Trademark is anything that identifies a brand to a common consumer.

Trademarks in India used to be governed by Trade and Merchandise Marks Act 1958. However, near the end of the 20th century, India felt the urgent need for new legislation in light of the TRIPS agreement and recent membership to WIPO. So, at present time trademarks in India is now governed by the Trade Mark Rules 2017 & Trade Marks Act, 1999.

The definition of trademark according to this Act is - "means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours; and:
  1. In relation to Chapter XII (other than section 107), a registered trade mark or a mark used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right as proprietor to use the mark; and
  2. in relation to other provisions of this Act, a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right, either as proprietor or by way of permitted user, to use the mark whether with or without any indication of the identity of that person, and includes a certification trade mark or collective mark;
This Act also states in Section 2(a) to include collective mark and certification trade mark under the ambit of Trademark.

The difference between Trademark and other intellectual property rights is that Trademark is given for an indefinite amount of time. Initially it is provided for 10 years but it may be renewed indefinitely.

Whereas other intellectual property rights are not provided indefinitely.

Types of Trademarks

  1. Word Marks: This indicates the right only in words, letters, or numerals. No protection in representation of marks (words only).
  2. Device Marks: It indicates the right of unique representation of a word, letter, or numeral (word + logo).
  3. Service Marks: It is used only for services, not for goods. (There are 45 classes in Trademark. 1-34 are for goods and 35-45 are for services).
  4. Collective Marks: They are the marks used by a group of companies collectively. For example, Sony used by Bravia, Xperia etc.
  5. Certification Marks: It includes marks used to define standards. (ISI).
  6. Well Known Marks: When a mark is recognized among a large percentage of the population, it is termed as well-known marks. They enjoy greater protection (extra fees) (either on application or if the court has declared).
  7. Unconventional Trademarks: Marks which get recognition for their inherently distinctive feature. These include:
    1. Color Trademark: Purple color on the pack of dairy milk.
    2. Sound Marks: Phone ringtone on startup.
    3. Shape Marks: 2D and 3D shapes.
    4. Smell Marks: Lush green smell of a tennis ball (only in the USA).

Genericide is when a brand name becomes so commonly used to describe a certain type of product that people forget it's a specific brand. It's like the brand name turns into a regular word that everyone uses. This can be a problem for the company that made the brand, because they lose the special recognition that their brand used to have.

For example, "Xerox" was a brand name for a kind of photocopier. But over time, people started using "xerox" to mean making copies, no matter what brand of photocopier they were using. So, "Xerox" kind of lost its special meaning as a brand name and became a generic term for copying.

Companies work hard to avoid genericide and keep their brand names strong, so people always remember their unique products.

How many offices of Trademark are there in India?
In India, the operations of Trademarks are carried out from five cities i.e., Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Kolkata, and Chennai. Each city has been assigned a bunch of states. The businesses located in a particular state can only use the services of the assigned Trademark Registration Office. In the case of foreign applicants, jurisdiction is based on the location of the office of the applicant 's agent or attorney.

The jurisdiction associated with each city is as follows:
  • Mumbai - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Goa.
  • Ahmedabad - Gujarat, Rajasthan and Union Territories of Daman, Diu, Dadar and Nagar Haveli
  • Kolkata - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, Jharkhand, and Union Territories of Nagaland, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • New Delhi - Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
  • Chennai - Andra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Union Territory of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep Island.

Registration:Process, Restrictions and Importance:
The process of registering trademark of a company must be in adherence to the provisions of the Trademark Act. Registration is done by filing an application for the same. It can be done both by the proprietor or any agent on his behalf.

However, it is recommended to conduct a prior art search to ensure the registration criteria. By this search, the registrant ensures that the trademark is not already in use and complies with all the provisions of this Act.

Once the 'prior art search' is over and the applicant is convinced about the distinctiveness of the Trademark, he can proceed to fill the application form for registration (TM-A).

The application is filed at the Trademarks Office subject to the jurisdiction of the applicant.

The steps involved in the registration process are as follows:

  • After the prior art search has been conducted, the applicant can apply for the registration on his own or with the help of a certified agent.
  • The application is assigned an application number within a few days. The same can be tracked online.
  • The application is scrutinized by a professional examiner. If everything is in order, the particulars of the application are published in the official Trademark journal. Otherwise, objections are sent to the applicant for rectification.
  • Based on the satisfactory response, the examiner would recommend the revised application to be published in the journal. If the application is rejected, the applicant may approach the Intellectual Property Division to challenge the rejection of an application by the examiner.
  • Once the Trademark is published in the official journal, the public has an opportunity to file an objection, if any, within 90 days. After hearing both the parties, the officer decides whether to proceed further for the grant of Trademark or disallow the grant of Trademark.
  • In case of an unfavorable outcome, the applicant has the right to contest the decision in front of the IPAB (Intellectual Property Advisory Board).
  • Once the application has successfully completed all formalities, a Trademark registration certificate is issued in the name of the applicant.

Provisions regarding the registration of trademark are as following:

  • Section 18 - Application for registration to Registrar, single application for registration in different categories, fee payable for each category. If the registrar refuses the application, he will record reasons for it.
  • Section 19 - The registrar may withdraw the application after its been accepted but before the trademark is registered if he has reasons for it after hearing the applicant.
  • Section 20 - Advertisement of Application
  • Section 21 - Opposition to Registration (within 3 months of advertisement)
  • Section 22 - Correction and amendment of application
  • Section 23 - Registration
In the year 2010, amendments were made to add protection of Trade marks through international registration under Madrid Protocol (Section 36A to Section 36G were added).

Section 31:
This section states that registration is prima facie evidence of ownership of trademark, if you don't register then also you can prove your right over it, but registration makes it easier.
Betco Enterprises and Another v. Pradhan Perfumes and others
"Trademarks exist independently of the registration; registration is just extra evidence of protection."

Following conditions have been prescribed by the Act to be considered by any person seeking to register their trademark:

Section 9: Absolute grounds for refusal of registration

  • Trademarks cannot be registered if:
    • They are devoid of any distinctive character, not capable of distinguishing goods or services (Deceptively Similar Marks).
    • They consist exclusively of marks or indications describing characteristics of goods or services (Descriptive Marks).
    • They consist exclusively of marks or indications customary in trade (Use of Common Names).
    • They are deceptive, scandalous, obscene, or cause confusion (Offensive or Immoral Marks).
    • They hurt religious sentiments or are prohibited by law (Hurtful to Religious Sentiments).
    • They use government symbols prohibited by law (Government Symbols).
    • They consist of functional shapes or add substantial value to goods (Functional or Common Shape).

Section 10: Limitation as to color

  • A trademark may be limited to a combination of colors.
  • If not limited, the trademark is registered for all colors.
  • Example: Cadbury (Purple), Color of drink or cans.

Section 11: Relative Grounds for Refusal of Registration

  • No registration if identity or similarity to an earlier trademark or goods and services.
    • No registration if the earlier trademark is well known and the new trademark benefits from it.
    • New trademark can be registered with owner's consent.
  • Case Example: M/S Hitachi Ltd v. Ajay Kumar Aggarwal (1996)
    • Court refused registration of 'HITAISHI' similar to 'HITACHI'.

Section 12: Registration in the case of honest concurrent use

  • Registration of similar trademarks allowed if parties act in good faith and meet Registrar's conditions.

Section 13: Prohibition of registration of names of chemical elements or international non-proprietary names

  • No registration of names of chemical elements or compounds declared as international non-proprietary names by WHO.

Section 14: Use of names and representations of living persons or persons recently dead

  • Using a person's name (living or dead within last 20 years) requires consent from the person or their legal representatives.

Consequence of Non-Registration of Trademark

The registration of trademark for goods or services is not compulsory but it adds an extra layer of protection in case of infringement.
  • Section 31:
    This section states that registration is prima facie evidence of ownership of trademark, if you don't register then also you can prove your right over it, but registration makes it easier.Betco Enterprises and Another v. Pradhan Perfumes and others "Trademarks exist independently of the registration; registration is just extra evidence of protection."
  • Passing off:
    • Passing off is when someone pretends to be something they're not, especially in business. It's like if you have a popular lemonade stand, and someone else starts a stand using a similar name and look to trick people into thinking it's yours. That's passing off. It's about stopping unfair competition and protecting your business's reputation and brand.
    • Passing off is used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. This remedy for the same has been provided under Section 27 of this Act.
    • The three basic elements of passing off are Reputation, Misrepresentation, Damage which are called as Classical Trinity, propounded in the case of Reckitt & Coleman Ltd v. Borden Inc.
    • Modern elements of passing off were propounded in the case of Erven Warnink v. Towned. They are as following:
      1. Misrepresentation
      2. Made by a person in the course of trade
      3. To prospective customers or consumers or another traders goods or services
      4. Which injures the trader's business or goodwill
      5. Causing actual damage to a business or goodwill of the trader by whom the action is brought.
    • The case of S. Sayed Moideen v P. Soluchana Bai (2005) is highly relevant in the Indian scenario. The court said that a right over registered trademark is not absolute, subject to rights of prior user for passing off.

Importance of Trademark Registration

The registration of trademark is very important as it provides a lot of benefits. The benefits are as stated below:
  • Brand Protection: It stops others from using your brand name or logo, so customers always know it's your stuff.
  • Legal Power: If someone copies you, you can use your registered trademark to legally make them stop. Infringement of the same has been talked about under Section 29 and Section 30 of this Act.
  • Trust Builder: It builds trust with customers. When they see your trademark, they know your product is real and reliable.
  • Asset Value: Your trademark becomes an asset, like a valuable treasure. If your business grows, it can be worth a lot of money.
  • Nationwide Rights: It gives you rights all across your country, so you don't have to worry about local copycats.
  • It can also provide international rights, as per provisions in consonance with the Madrid System envisaged under Section 36A to Section 36G after the 2010 amendment.

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly