The Indian law of trademarks is enshrined in the Trade Marks Act, 1999. The Act seeks to provide for the registration of tradeonlinemarket relating to goods and services in India. The rights granted under the Act, are operative in the whole of india.
What is a Trademark
A TRADEMARK is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs is used in the course of trade which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one enterprise from those of others. A SERVICE MARK is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Normally, a mark for goods appears on the product or on its packaging, while a service mark appears in advertising for the services.
A trademark is different from a copyright or a patent or geographical indication. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention whereas a geographical indication is used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a definite territory.
Classification of Goods and Services*
Almost all jurisdictions including India employ a classification system in which goods and services have been grouped into classes for registration. Most countries follow the same classification system, namely the International Classification of Goods and Services, which consists of 34 classes of goods and 8 classes of services. (The WIPO recently revised the Nice Classification, adding three service classes (43, 44, 45) and restructuring Class 42, retaining certain services. This provision has not yet been implemented in India).
For example, printed matter, newspaper and periodicals are classified in Class 16 while services in the field of publication comes under Class 41. Time Incorporated, USA is the registered proprietor of the trademark “TIME” in about 150 countries.
Rights conferred by registration
The registration of a trademark confers on the registered proprietor of the trademark the exclusive right to use the trademark in relation to the goods or services in respect of which the trademark is registered. While registration of a trademark is not compulsory it offers better legal protection for action for infringement.
Who Can Apply For A Trademark
Any person can apply for registration of a trademark to the Trademark Registry under whose jurisdiction the principal place of the business of the applicant in India falls. In case of a company about to be formed, anyone may apply in his name for subsequent assignment of the registration in the company’s favor.
Before making an application for registration it is prudent to make an inspection of the already registered trademarks to ensure that registration may not be denied in view of resemblance of the proposed mark to an existing one or prohibited one.
Filing and Prosecuting Trademark Applications
An application for trademark may be made on Form TM-1 with prescribed fee of Rs. 2500/- at one of the five office of the Trade Marks Registry located at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Ahmedabad depending on the place where the applicant resides or has his principle place of business. The application is examined to ascertain whether it is distinctive and does not conflict with existing registered or pending trademarks and examination report issued. If it is found be acceptable then it is advertised in the Trade Marks Journal to allow others to oppose the registration. If there is no opposition or if the opposition is decided in favour of the applicant then the mark is registered and a certificate of registration is issued. If the applicant’s response does not overcome all objections, the Registrar will issue a final refusal. The applicant may then appeal to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, an administrative tribunal.
A common ground for refusal is likelihood of confusion between the applicant’s mark with registered mark or pending prior mark. Marks, which are merely descriptive in relation to the applicant’s goods or services, or a feature of the goods or services, may also be refused registration. Marks consisting of geographic terms or surnames may also be refused. Marks may be refused for other reasons as well.
Duration of a Trademark
The term of a trademark registration is for a period of ten years. The renewal is possible for further period of 10 years each. Unlike patents, copyrights or industrial design trademark rights can last indefinitely if the owner continues to use the mark. However, if a registered trademark is not renewed, it is liable to be removed from the register.
Use of the “TM,” “SM” and “(R)” Symbols
Anyone who claims rights in a mark can use the TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) designation with the mark to alert the public of the claim. It is not necessary to have a registration, or even a pending application, to use these designations. The claim may or may not be valid. The registration symbol, (R), may only be used when the mark is registered.
Remedies For Infringement And Passing-Off
Two types of remedies are available to the owner of a trademark for unauthorized use of his or her mark or its imitation by a third party. These remedies are: – ‘an action for infringement’ in case of a registered trademark and ‘an action for passing off*’ in the case of an unregistered trademark.
The basic difference between an infringement action and an action for passing off is that the former is a statutory remedy and the latter is a common law remedy. Accordingly, in order to establish infringement with regard to a registered trademark, it is necessary only to establish that the infringing mark is identical or deceptively similar to the registered mark and no further proof is required. In the case of a passing off action, proving that the marks are identical or deceptively similar alone is not sufficient. The use of the mark should be likely to deceive or cause confusion. Further, in a passing off action it is necessary to prove that the use of the trademark by the defendant is likely to cause injury or damage to the plaintiff’s goodwill, whereas in an infringement suit, the use of the mark by the defendant need not cause any injury to the plaintiff.
However, the registration cannot upstage a prior consistent user of trademark in India, for the rule followed is ‘priority in adoption prevails over priority in registration`. In many other jurisdictions like Saudi Arabia, Nepal etc. where the first party to register a trademark is considered the party to own the mark, regardless of prior use of the mark.
*Passing off originated with the tort of deceit. The doctrine is based on the principle that one trader is not to sell his goods under the pretence that they are the goods of another trader. Historically, marketplace has been concerned with guaranteeing consumers the quality of goods that they had come to rely upon in the course of trade. To further that guarantee, the common law developed the tort of passing off, which helped to assure that a person was representing his goods as being his and not the goods of someone else.
Safeguards to be taken by the proprietor of a registered trade mark to protect his rights: –
The proprietor should use and renew the trademark regularly and in time. If the trademark is misused by others he should file a suit for infringement and passing off and also take criminal action.
The proprietor should keep a watch in respect of trademarks published in the Trade Marks Journal and institute opposition proceedings if identical or deceptively similar trademarks are advertised. He should initiate rectification proceedings if an identical or deceptively similar trademark is registered.
Use Of Trademarks In Foreign Countries
Trademark rights are granted on a country-by-country basis. An Indian registration provides protection only in India and its territories. If the owner of a mark wishes to protect a mark in other countries, the owner must seek protection in each country separately under the relevant laws.
International trademark protection
There is no system as yet wherein a single trademark application is sufficient to protect the trademark right internationally. However, Paris convention* provides certain privileges to member countries in trademark registration. A party that files their first trademark application in a member state of the Convention, such as India, can within six months of that filing date file applications in other member countries claiming the priority of the first application. If such a trademark is accepted for registration it will be deemed to have registered from the same date on which the application is made in the home country.
It is also possible to utilize multinational filing systems in certain regions in order to obtain trademark protection. For example, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have a single trademark registry, commonly referred to as the Benelux Trademark Register. The European Union consisting of 15 countries has adopted its own trademark system, known as the Community Trademark. The African Organization for Intellectual Property (OAPI), a group of African nations, have replaced their national trademark offices with a common trademark office which offers a single trademark registration valid in all of the member states.