Delhi High Court protects 'Zee' trademark

NEW DELHI: No other company selling anything or providing any service from now on will be able to use the trade mark "Zee", the Delhi High Court has ruled last weekend.

In the order passed on February 5 on a writ petition filed by c., the Court restrained the Registrar of Trade Marks of all branches from processing pending applications pertaining to trade mark "Zee".

The Registrar is forbidden also from advertising any further applications that may be filed pertaining to the Trade Mark "Zee" or "deceptively similar mark by any third party", the court has ruled.

Arvind Mohan, Executive Vice President of the Essel group told today: "This is a landmark decision and establishes our sole right to use the brad and trade mark that the company has so painstakingly developed over the years."

The court has also stayed the order dated 11.9.2000 and 15.9.2000 of Registrar of Trade Mark, Mumbai, by virtue of which the company Shri Venkateshwara Group of Industries obtained the registration of trade mark or logo "Zee" for its products known as Zee Gutkha and Zee Pan Masala.

Zee Telefilms had filed a writ petition under Article 227 invoking extraordinary jurisdiction of Delhi High Court, challenging acceptance orders directing advertising passed by Registrar of Trade Mark permitting advertisement of at least 100 trade mark applications for registered mark or logo "Zee" or deceptively similar marks filed by Shri Venkateshwara Group of Industries, which is completely violative of the statutory provisions and contrary to the law.

Various offices of the registrar situated at Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi have also been made respondents in the case, apart from the Union of India through Secretary, Information & Broadcasting and Copyright Board, New Delhi.

The counsels for Zee, Senior Advocate Rajiv Nayyar and Prathiba M. Singh pointed out that trade mark registrars have permitted advertising of around 100 trade mark applications for registration as "Zee", or look-alike, deceptive marks and they continue to do so despite the detailed representation made by the Zee Telefilms Ltd.

The argued also that this is also in complete disregard to the prevailing injunction order dated September 4, 2001 of the Division Bench of Mumbai High Court against the Shri Venkateshwra Group, restraining them to use the mark Zee Gutkha or any other deceptive look-alike mark.

Zee Telefilms Ltd. had said that they are registered proprietors and lawful owners of the trade mark in India as well as in several other countries abroad., Besides, they also own the Common Law Rights, Statutory Rights as well as Copyrights in the "Zee" logo, written in any manner whatsoever.

Zee reminded the court that it has several channels with the "Zee" mark, which are watched by 180 million viewers out of which 120 millions are in India. In fact, the broadcaster owns the trade mark since 1992.

The most significant of the court's orders are that it said that "before the Registrar of Trademarks proceeds to advertise a mark registration whereof is sought, the Registrar is obliged to cause a research to be made amongst the registered trademarks as also pending applications for purposes of ascertaining, whether there are on record, in respect of same goods or services or similar goods or services, any mark identical with or deceptively similar to the mark sought to be got registered.

"The principle of the dilution of the trademark has been extended for the mark in question. Yet, in spite thereof, Registrar of Trademarks is admitting for registration, applications by hundreds of individuals who seek registration of the trademark "Zee" for purposes of sale of their goods."

In the meanwhile the court restrained all branches of the Registrar of Trademarks from processing pending applications pertaining to registration of the trademark "Zee".

"Further injunction is issued restraining Registrar of Trademarks from advertising any further application which may be filed pertaining to the trademark "Zee", the court ruled.

The court also stayed the order of the Registrar under which the other respondents had been allowed to use the Zee trade mark.

Mohan opined that a brand is one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. "Brand experience develops expectations creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities and characteristics that make it special or unique," he explained.

He said also that the court order will help the consumers stay clear of false impressions about the identity of those companies not related to Zee's activity, that is, providing healthy entertainment on television.

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