Delhi high court rules Republic TV cannot use ‘News Hour’

The court however allowed the use of the tagline ‘Nation Wants to Know’ pending further examinatio

New Delhi: The fight for who holds the rights to the words ‘News Hour’ and ‘nation wants to know’ between Benett Coleman & Co’s Times Now and ARG Media Outlier’s Republic TV has been on for a very long time. Earlier, BCCL had moved the high court seeking a permanent injunction against Arnab Goswami's ARG Media Outlier from using the abovementioned branding or any other derivatives or combinations of the same.

On Friday, the case moved forward. The Delhi high court  granted interim relief to Times Now while restraining Republic TV from using the trademark ‘News Hour’ or any other mark that may be deceptively similar to it.

The single-judge bench of justice Jayant Nath however did not grant any relief to Times Now regarding the use of the catchphrase ‘The nation wants to know’, informing the plaintiff that a detailed examination of the issue is required.

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The court found no merit in the defendant's argument against distinctiveness of the2014  registered trademark ‘News Hour"  which was prima facie in use since 2006. 

As such, the defendant's use of prefix or suffix against the registered mark would also be viewed as being deceptively similar and the plaintiff would be entitled to relief in this regard. Observing the same, the court granted an interim injunction against the use of "News Hour" or anything deceptively similar to it. 

The second trademark in dispute is not a registered mark and is a tagline that both parties stake claim to giving rise to the question of whether the defendant was indulging in passing off. While the plaintiff claimed proprietary right, the defendant said that the tagline was never associated with the plaintiff but always with Goswami. 

The court, however, opined that this issue needs further examination of documents adduced by both sides and can be done when the parties lay their evidence. The court said, "The date of use of the tagline NWTK can only be decided appropriately after the parties have laid their evidence."  

"In these facts and circumstances, prima facie it is not possible, at this stage without leading of evidence, to come to a conclusion that the defendants seek to mislead the consumers of the news channel or that the action of the defendants in using the said tagline would cause damage to the plaintiff as claimed," it added.

The dispute between the Times Group and Republic Media dates  back to 2016 when Arnab Goswami (then anchor and editor) exited Times Now to set up his own venture ARG Outlier Media that owns Republic Network. Times Now started airing News Hour in 2006 and the show emerged as one of the flagship programs of the channel with Goswami leading it.

The trademark, according to reports,  ‘News Hour’ was registered by the Times Group under Classes 16, 35 and 38 in 2014 and the mark itself has been in use since 2006. Therefore, the plaintiff claimed statutory right over this trademark.

 As for the phrase 'nation wants to know', Times Group claimed that the tagline was a product of the efforts of the editorial and marketing team' during the creative efforts undertaken for and on their behalf.

The tagline was to be used during debates and discussions conducted during the primetime program News Hour, which was anchored by Arnab Goswami up until his acrimonious exit from Times Now.

The plaintiff  has also alleged that Goswami took "undue advantage" of the popularity of the program he anchored at Times Now. Despite his employment agreement with Times Group vesting all rights to intellectual property exclusively with the plaintiff company, Goswami proceeded to use the disputed marks, the Times Group averred.

Republic countered the claim saying that viewers of the two news channels are “informed and literate” and cannot confuse the programmes aired on the two channels especially since the animosity between the two is a matter of public knowledge.

The defendant mentioned that the Times Group initiated the present proceedings "in the form of vendetta litigation" merely with the intention to "attempt to harass and arm twist."

Republic has argued that the words ‘News Hour’ are generic, widely used and as such Times Group cannot claim a proprietary right on the same. In fact, it has even questioned the granting of trademark in favour of plaintiff terming the same as erroneous on the grounds that the term lacks distinctiveness and ought not have been granted as a trademark.

After listening to both parties, the court granted partial relief, in the form of an interim injunction against the use of 'News Hour' while allowing Republic TV to keep using 'nation wants to know' pending further investigation of documents.

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