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Replying to TRADEMARK Objections

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 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.

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(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.

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Protecting Trade Secrets in India

How to protect TRADE SECRETS in India?

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The primary goal of “Make in India” initiative was to make India a “Global Manufacturing Hub”. With both multinational companies and domestic companies manufacturing their products within the country, the significance of exports and the manufacturing sector in India has increased considerably. Several measures have been taken to ensure continuous and unending improvement of the Indian IP ecosystem in the country due to the need to extend such to exports for its proper commercialization.

 

Just as other Intellectual Property Rights, Trade Secrets are extremely valuable and sometimes even critical for a company’s growth and survival. Trade secret is a formula, process, device, method, technique or other business information having commercial value. This information is kept confidential and exclusive. Reasonable steps have been taken to maintain its secrecy to get competitive advantage over the competitors.   

For example, Trade secrets like Coca-Cola’s formula for its aerated drinks have been preserved for many decades and is not in the public domain.

India has no specific law for the protection of trade secrets. But, Article 39 of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement to which India is a signatory provides for the specific provision for the protection of undisclosed information.

Article 39 of the TRIPS Agreement states that:

  1. In the course of ensuring effective protection against unfair competition as provided in Article 10b is of the Paris Convention (1967), Members shall protect undisclosed information in accordance with paragraph 2 and data submitted to governments or governmental agencies in accordance with paragraph 3.
  2. Natural and legal persons shall have the possibility of preventing information lawfully within their control from being disclosed to, acquired by, or used by others without their consent in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices (10) so long as such information:                                                                                                                     (a) is secret in the sense that it is not, as a body or in the precise configuration and assembly of its components, generally known among or readily accessible to persons within the circles that normally deal with the kind of information in question          (b) has commercial value because it is secret; and                                                        (c)

    has been subject to reasonable steps under the circumstances, by the person lawfully in control of the information, to keep it secret.

  3. Members, when requiring, as a condition of approving the marketing of pharmaceutical or of agricultural chemical products which utilize new chemical entities, the submission of undisclosed test or other data, the origination of which involves a considerable effort, shall protect such data against unfair commercial use. In addition, Members shall protect such data against disclosure, except where necessary to protect the public, or unless steps are taken to ensure that the data are protected against unfair commercial use.

    Unlike Patents and Copyrights which can be protected for about 20 years and 100 years respectively, trade secrets can potentially last much longer. A trade secret continues to remain a trade secret as long as any other person does not independently discover the information.Due to the absence of law for the protection of trade secrets, Indian courts have approached trade secrets protection on the basis of principles of equity, action of breach of confidence and contractual obligations.

    In India, a person can be contractually bound to not disclose any information which is told to him in confidence and if the person discloses the information, he/she can be sued for violating the Non-Disclosure Agreement.

    Companies can include a non-disclosure agreement in their employment contracts which prevents the employees to disclose any sensitive and confidential information regarding the company during their term of employment with the company or afterwards so that the secret is not spilled out. In cases where the trade secret is in a physical form like blueprints, files etc. a strict Security System should be in place so that this confidential information remains confidential.

    If your business relies on sensitive information that you would consider to be a trade secret, we encourage you to consult with a legal practitioner for advice on maximizing its protection.

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