Trademark Squatting in India


In India, trademark squatting has become a common problem, especially with the increasing popularity of e-commerce platforms. With the ease of registration and the low cost involved, it has become easier for unscrupulous entities to register a trademark that belongs to a legitimate business, and then demand exorbitant amounts in exchange for relinquishing the trademark. The Trademark Act, 1999, is the primary legislation governing trademark registration and protection in India. It provides for the registration of trademarks, and also outlines the grounds for refusal of registration, including when the trademark is identical or similar to an existing trademark.

Trademark squatting in India is a practice where an individual or a company registers a trademark that belongs to someone else, with the intent of selling or licensing it back to the rightful owner at a higher price. In other words, it is the act of registering a trademark that is already in use or is well-known, in bad faith, to gain an undue advantage over the legitimate owner of the trademark.

Trademark squatting, also known as brand squatting, is a common problem in India, where the registration process for trademarks is often slow and cumbersome, leaving legitimate brand owners vulnerable to squatters. In India, trademark squatting involves the registration of a trademark that is identical or similar to a well-known or established brand, with the intention of profiting from its use or selling it to the legitimate owner of the brand at an inflated price.
Trademark squatting in India is particularly prevalent in the context of online commerce, where squatters often register domain names that are identical or similar to established brands, with the intention of profiting from the resulting confusion among consumers. This is known as cybersquatting and is a major problem in India, where the use of the internet and e-commerce is rapidly growing. The Indian government has taken steps to combat trademark squatting, including streamlining the trademark registration process and increasing penalties for squatters. The government has also established specialized Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Courts to handle trademark disputes and enforce intellectual property rights. Despite these measures, trademark squatting remains a significant problem in India, and brand owners must remain vigilant to protect their trademarks and intellectual property rights.

One recent case of trademark squatting in India involved the popular Indian snack food brand ‘Bikano’ and a Chinese company called ‘Guangzhou Zhujiang’ Beer Group Co. Ltd. In 2020, Guangzhou Zhujiang Beer Group filed an application to register the trademark “Bikang” in India, which is a transliteration of the Chinese name for the company. The application covered a wide range of food products, including snacks, confectionery, and bakery products. Bikano, which has been in operation in India since 1987 and owns the trademark for the name “Bikano”, opposed the application on the grounds of trademark infringement and dilution. Bikano argued that the use of the “Bikang” trademark by Guangzhou Zhujiang Beer Group would create confusion among consumers and dilute the distinctiveness of the Bikano brand. The case was heard by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), which ruled in favor of Bikano in March 2021. The IPAB found that the “Bikang” trademark was similar to the “Bikano” trademark and that the use of the former by Guangzhou Zhujiang Beer Group would likely cause confusion among consumers. The IPAB also noted that Bikano had a long history of using the “Bikano” trademark in India and that the company had established a strong reputation and goodwill associated with the brand. The ruling was seen as a victory for Bikano and other Indian brand owners, as it underscored the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property rights and the potential harm that trademark squatting can cause to legitimate brand owners. It also demonstrated the importance of taking proactive measures to protect one’s trademarks, including opposing potentially infringing trademark applications and monitoring trademark registrations in relevant jurisdictions.

In conclusion, trademark squatting is a growing concern in India, particularly in the digital age where it is easier to register a trademark and conduct business online. It is a malicious act that not only harms the rightful owners of the trademark, but also hinders fair competition and economic growth. However, the Indian government has implemented strict regulations and the judiciary has been active in preventing and punishing trademark squatting.

Rossel Aggarwal

Associate Trainee – Lawgenix- Legal Geniuses

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