Section 9 (2) of The Trade Marks Act, 1999 categorically bars the registration of a trademark if it is likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of the country. Registration of religious symbols as trademarks may be viewed as commercialization of the particular religion to which they belong and abuse of the followers of that religion.
BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE
The present case is an appeal preferred by Shri Lal Babu Priyadarshi trading as M/s Om Perfumery (hereinafter referred to as the "Appellant") against the order passed by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board dated 10 January 2005 whereby the Intellectual Property Appellate Board allowed the appeal preferred by Shri Amritpal Singh trading as M/s Badshah Industries (hereinafter referred to as the "Respondent") and set aside the order passed by the Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks dated 31 March 2004.
Brief facts of the case that led to the present appeal are as follows:
- The Appellant made an application to the Registrar of Trade Marks for the registration of the mark "RAMAYAN" with the device of a crown falling in Class 3.
- Thereafter, the Respondent herein filed a notice of opposition to oppose the registration of aforesaid trademark under Sections 9, 11(a), 11(b), 11(e), 12(1), 12(3) and 18(1) of the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as "The Act") claiming that the impugned mark "ramayan", being the name of a religious book, cannot become the subject-matter of monopoly for an individual.
- In this regard, the Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks dismissed the application filed by the Respondent and by order dated 31 March 2004 held that since the impugned trademark consists of the word "ramayan" with the device of crown, it is not included in the list of marks not capable of being registered under The Act.
- Subsequently, the Respondent preferred an appeal before the Intellectual Property Appellate Board and by order dated 10 January 2005, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board set aside the order dated 31 March 2004 passed by the Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks.
- Hence, the present appeal.
Whether the registration of the word "ramayan", being the name of a holy book of Hindus, is prohibited under Section 9(2) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999?
Section 9 (2) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999
It stipulates the grounds for refusal of registration of a mark which are as follows:
- The mark is of such nature that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion in the minds of the public
- The mark contains anything that is likely to hurt the religious sentiments of any class or section
- The mark contains any scandalous or obscene matter
- The use of the mark is prohibited by the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950
The "RAMAYAN" is a religious book of the Hindus in our country written by Maharishi Valmiki. The Apex Court opined that The Trade Marks Act, 1999 does not permit the registration of the name "RAMAYAN" as a trademark for any commodity. Had any other word been added as a suffix or prefix to the word "RAMAYAN" and the alphabet or the design or the length of the words were the same as that of the word "RAMAYAN," then the word "RAMAYAN" would have lost its significance as a religious book and would have been considered for registration as a trade mark. However, in the present case, the Apex Court found that the Appellant had applied for registration of "RAMAYAN" as a trademark as the sole feature of the mark and was using the photographs of Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshman on the label, which made it apparent that the Appellant was taking advantage of the gods and goddesses which is otherwise not permitted by The Trade Marks Act, 1999.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court also took into consideration the Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee wherein the Committee expressed its opinion that symbols relating to gods, goddesses etc. should not ordinarily be registered as trademarks.
Further, it was also a matter of record that the word "ramayan" was being used as a mark for several other products by different traders across the country which is why it had become public juris and common to the trade and the Appellant has not been able to establish that the word "ramayan" for which he has applied the trade mark has acquired any reputation whatsoever in the market for similar products. Therefore, "RAMAYAN" being a common religious name cannot become a subject matter of monopoly for an individual.
DECISION OF THE APEX COURT
In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the Apex Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the order passed by by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board dated 10 January 2005.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court held that a person cannot claim the name of a holy book or a religious book such as the Quran, the Bible, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Ramayan, etc. to name a few, as a trademark for his goods or services.
1. Lal Babu Priyadarshi v. Amritpal Singh, (2015) 16 SCC 795
2. DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd. v. Laxami Trader, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 3358
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