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TRADEMARKING DEITY - A REBUTTAL TO LAL BABU PRIYADARSHINI V. AMRITPAL SINGH

Author: Ruchika Chaurasia, III year of B.A.,LL.B. from Delhi Metropolitan Education affiliated with GGSIPU, New Delhi


India is a diverse country with a diverse culture, people, and traditions. In India, the genre of religion has always caused controversy in the past and continues to do so now.Religion, in particular, is incredibly personal to most people, who fiercely preserve it, and nine out of 10 people in every corner of the globe live and breathe on religion.Given the Indian common man's deep respect and admiration for and attachment to religion, the relationship between trademark law and religion is an extremely fascinating topic to read, comprehend, and discuss.Given the intrinsic natures of trademark law and religion, which differ and converge at various points and there is a huge amount of complexities.Because of this inherent complexity, even the world's most developed countries have struggled to solve the question of how to address this issue.Should religion be a bar to trademark approval?To address this question, one must dig deeper into the nature and purpose of this relationship, as well as their interaction, as evidenced by codified legislation and court precedents.


Trademark Law and Religion in India

In India, the Trademark Act of 1999 imposes strict religious restrictions. Section 9 states unequivocally that an absolute reason for rejection of registration of the trademark must exist if such brand is, in parts or whole, likely to affect the religious sensibilities of any community, section, or resident of India.The terminology clearly indicates that the drafters' purpose was to offer as much protection as feasible.This is further supported by a review of the list of forbidden marks, which reveals that a number of religious symbols, names, and terminology used in connection to India's numerous religions are on the list.

For their pervasiveness in everyday life, regulating the use of religious phrases, names, and symbols is particularly challenging.We find parallels to religion nearly everywhere, from people's names to their companies, food products, and even regions. Furthermore, naming an organization or company after a religious phrase is deemed lucky.


Analyzing the case Lal Babu Priyadarshini v. Amritpal Singh

Background of the Case

  • The Appellant, Lal Babu, had applied for registration of a trade mark for his product, incense sticks, with the name 'RAMAYAN' and an image of a crown.

  • The respondent, Amritpal Singh, objected to his application, claiming that Lal Babu could not claim a monopoly on the name of a sacred book.

  • When Lal Babu's trademark of a crown and the word 'RAMAYAN' was brought for registration before the Asst Registrar of Trademarks, it was determined that the brand had gained uniqueness and could be distinguished from other items on the market. As a result, he let this to be registered in India.

  • The case was resolved against Lal Babu in an appeal to the Appellate Board (presently termed as the Intellectual Property Appellate Board), with the Board ruling that his trademark is not eligible for registration under the Trademarks Act, 1999.

  • The Appellant, who was dissatisfied with the IPAB's decision, filed this Special Leave Appeal.


Arguments on behalf of Appellant

  • He has branded products under the trademark "RAMAYAN" since 1981, and the trademark has become so distinctive that any other person using the same or similar trademark or packaging will cause confusion and deception throughout the market and among the public at large.

  • A fact that the trademark is a sacred book's name is inadequate grounds for rejection of approval under Section 9(2) of the Act, because there is no proof that its use in connection with incense sticks has offended Hindu sensibilities.

  • The Board erred in presenting this Court's decision in Competent authority of Trademarks v.Ashok Chandra Rakhit; AIR 1955 SC 558 as a command as to whether all religious words or symbols are barred from registration, when the fact is that this Law merely codified the Registration and the High Court's consistent findings that the phrase 'SHREE' was unwilling to recognize the goods. The aforementioned issue is further characterised by the fact that the trademark office did not reject to register the word "SHREE," but the phrase "RAMAYAN" was not.


Arguments on behalf of Respondent

  • As the infringed mark represents the title of a holy book, it can’t be utilised to provide one individual a monopoly.

  • The trademark "RAMAYAN" is not unique and lacks distinguishing traits.

  • The mark "RAMAYAN" is not registrable, as it is the title of a popular and holy book.The trademark is used by more than 20 traders in Patna and many more, making it public domain.


Issue

Given the controversial facts, the Supreme Court's principal question (and key point of law) was whether the title of a holy book may be used as a trademark within the Act's authority.


Judgment

  • The Supreme Court mentioned that Section 9 of the Act states that a mark cannot be registered as a trademark if (i) It misleads or confuses the general public at large, (ii) It contains or consists of any content that is likely to cause religious sensitivities to be harmed, (iii) It contains content that is controversial or indecent, (iv) Its usage is restricted. It also states that if a mark is made up entirely of (a) items' shape, which determines their nature, or (b) the structure of products is required to achieve a technological outcome, (c) It is not permissible to register a trade mark for a shape that adds significant value to the goods.

  • However, in order to avoid disturbing the existing market by prohibiting their registration, the government has been directed to take necessary measures if anybody claims that a particular trademark is infringing on his religious beliefs.

  • The term "RAMAYAN" is derived from the title of a Hindu sacred book in our country. As a result, under the Act, utilizing the book's distinctive name "RAMAYAN" to publish it as a trademark for any object may be forbidden. If a suffix or prefix is added to the word "RAMAYAN," and the letters, design, or size of the words are equal to the word "RAMAYAN," the name "RAMAYAN" may lose its religious connotation and also be eligible for trademark registration.


Conclusion

  • The word "RAMAYAN" is taken from the title of a Hindu holy book in our nation.As a result, the Act may make it illegal to register the book's distinctive name "RAMAYAN" as a trademark for any object.If a suffix or prefix is added to the word "RAMAYAN," and the letters, design, or length of the terms are similar to those of "RAMAYAN," the phrase "RAMAYAN" might loses its religious significance and be eligible for trademark registration.

  • In addition, the appellant has failed to prove that the term "RAMAYAN," for which he has filed for a trade mark, has gained a reputation of usage in the market, as we grasp from more than twenty dealers in the city., as well as in other parts of the country, are using the title "RAMAYAN" as a trademark for similar products.

  • Based on the purported creative work, it is obvious that both marks are same in layout, colour, and style, and the expression of pictures is such that an ordinary customer may fairly assume that the object covered by one brand is identical to the article described by the other. Both sides have stated that they are manufacturing units involved in the production of certain items.

  • In addition, the respondent claimed that, while having been in business since 1980, he developed and published the original work in 1986, has been using as well as asserting use of the mark as a trademark since 1986, meanwhile the appellant claims usage since 1987. The appellant, on the other hand, has claimed the usage since 1981 by filing an application with the appropriate authority. In light of the aforesaid, we find no irregularity in the Board's ruling of 10.01.2005, and the appeal is rejected. Therefore, the parties are responsible for their own expenditures.

  • The Supreme Court's intention is clear: religious doctrines and god names belong between all people, and no one may claim exclusive use of them.


Reference

· https://indiankanoon.org/doc/53428453/

· https://www.ijlmh.com/paper/can-god-be-trademarked-a-critique-of-lal-babu-priyadarshini-v-amritpal-singh/

· https://www.indialaw.in/blog/blog/intellectual-property-rights/lal-babu-priyadarshi-v-amritpal-singh-trademark-ramayan/

· https://indiancaselaw.in/lal-babu-priyadarshi-v-amritpal-singh/


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