A Trademark is a type of intellectual property protection, under which a word, phrase, visual symbol and/or design used by a company to distinguish its goods or services from other similar goods or services originating from a different company can be protected. A trademark registration will confer an exclusive right and legal certainty to the use of registered trademark by the right holder.
Trademark protection can be obtained by filing a trademark application with the relevant Trade Mark Registrar in the prescribed format and paying the required fees.
Once a trademark application is filed, the trademark registration application will be allocated to a Trademark Officer in the Trademark Registrar Office. The Trademark Officer would then process the application and analyse it. The Trademark Officer will give its opinion about the Trademark in the form of an “Examination Report”. Based on the Examination Report, the trademark application is published in the trademark journal or an objection is raised for registration of Trademark.
If the trademark registration application is objected by the Trademark Officer, the trademark applicant has the right to submit a written reply for the objections raised within 1 month from the date of receipt of examination report. The trademark examination reply should include reasons and evidences along with the supporting documents to prove the distinctiveness of the trademark and as to why the trademark should be registered. The application is allowed to be published in the Trademark Journal before registration only if the Trademark officer is satisfied by the reply. Thus, the reply to the Trademark examination report should address all the concerns raised by the Trademark Officer.
The Trademark Officer raises an objection for registration of trademark under Section 9 and Section 11 of “The Trade Marks Act, 1999”.
Section 9 of The Trade Marks Act, 1999 states the Absolute grounds for refusal of registration—
(1) The trade marks—
(a) which are devoid of any distinctive character, that is to say, not capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of another person;
(b) which consist exclusively of marks or indications which may serve in trade to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, values, geographical origin or the time of production of the goods or rendering of the service or other characteristics of the goods or service;
(c) which consist exclusively of marks or indications which have become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and established practices of the trade, shall not be registered:
Provided that a trade mark shall not be refused registration if before the date of application for registration it has acquired a distinctive character as a result of the use made of it or is a well-known trade mark.
(2) A mark shall not be registered as a trade mark if—
(a) it is of such nature as to deceive the public or cause confusion;
(b) it contains or comprises of any matter likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of India;
(c) it comprises or contains scandalous or obscene matter;
(d) its use is prohibited under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act,1950 (12 of 1950).
(3) A mark shall not be registered as a trade mark if it consists exclusively of—
(a) the shape of goods which results from the nature of the goods themselves; or
(b) the shape of goods which is necessary to obtain a technical result; or
(c) the shape which gives substantial value to the goods. \
Section 11 of The Trade Marks Act, 1999 states the Relative grounds for refusal of registration—
(1) A trade mark shall not be registered if, because of—
(a) its identity with an earlier trade mark and similarity of goods or services covered by the trade mark; or
(b) its similarity to an earlier trade mark and the identity or similarity of the goods or services covered by the trade mark,
there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public, which includes the likelihood of association with the earlier trade mark.
(2) A trade mark which—
(a) is identical with or similar to an earlier trade mark; and
(b) is to be registered for goods or services which are not similar to those for which the earlier trade mark is registered in the name of a different proprietor, shall not be registered if or to the extent the earlier trade mark is a well-known trade mark in India and the use of the later mark without due cause would take unfair advantage of or be detrimental to the distinctive character or repute of the earlier trade mark.
(3) A trade mark shall not be registered if, or to the extent that, its use in India is liable to be prevented—
(a) by virtue of any law in particular the law of passing off protecting an unregistered trade mark used in the course of trade; or
(b) by virtue of law of copyright.
(4) Nothing in this section shall prevent the registration of a trade mark where the proprietor of the earlier trade mark or other earlier right consents to the registration, and in such case the Registrar may register the mark under special circumstances under section 12.
(5) A trade mark shall not be refused registration on the grounds specified in sub-sections (2) and (3), unless objection on any one or more of those grounds is raised in opposition proceedings by the proprietor of the earlier trade mark.
(6) The Registrar shall, while determining whether a trade mark is a well-known trade mark, take into account any fact which he considers relevant for determining a trade mark as a well-known trade mark including—
(i) the knowledge or recognition of that trade mark in the relevant section of the public including knowledge in India obtained as a result of promotion of the trade mark;
(ii) the duration, extent and geographical area of any use of that trade mark;
(iii) the duration, extent and geographical area of any promotion of the trade mark, including advertising or publicity and presentation, at fairs or exhibition of the goods or services to which the trade mark applies;
(iv) the duration and geographical area of any registration of or any application for registration of that trade mark under this Act to the extent that they reflect the use or recognition of the trade mark;
(v) the record of successful enforcement of the rights in that trade mark, in particular the extent to which the trade mark has been recognised as a well-known trade mark by any court or Registrar under that record.
(7) The Registrar shall, while determining as to whether a trade mark is known or recognised in a relevant section of the public for the purposes of sub-section (6), take into account—
(i) the number of actual or potential consumers of the goods or services;
(ii) the number of persons involved in the channels of distribution of the goods or services
(iii) the business circles dealing with the goods or services, to which that trade mark applies.
(8) Where a trade mark has been determined to be well known in at least one relevant section of the public in India by any court or Registrar, the Registrar shall consider that trade mark as a well-known trade mark for registration under this Act.
(9) The Registrar shall not require as a condition, for determining whether a trade mark is a well-known trade mark, any of the following, namely:—
(i) that the trade mark has been used in India;
(ii) that the trade mark has been registered;
(iii) that the application for registration of the trade mark has been filed in India;
(iv) that the trade mark— (a) is well-known in; or (b) has been registered in; or (c) in respect of which an application for registration has been filed in, any jurisdiction other than India; or
(v) that the trade mark is well-known to the public at large in India.
(10) While considering an application for registration of a trade mark and opposition filed in respect thereof, the Registrar shall—
(i) protect a well-known trade mark against the identical or similar trademarks;
(ii) take into consideration the bad faith involved either of the applicant or the opponent affecting the right relating to the trade mark.
(11) Where a trade mark has been registered in good faith disclosing the material informations to the Registrar or where right to a trade mark has been acquired through use in good faith before the commencement of this Act, then, nothing in this Act shall prejudice the validity of the registration of that trade mark or right to use that trade mark on the ground that such trade mark is identical with or similar to a well-known trade mark.
Thus, if the Trademark officer has raised an objection under Section 9 or Section 11 of the Trade Mark Act, 1999, the reply must contain the judicial precedent and should prove the point with proper evidence.