Trademarks in India: Law & Procedure

Legislation

The Indian law of trademarks is enshrined in the Trade Marks Act, 1999. The Act seeks to provide for the registration of trademarks 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.

Trademark Search

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.