Reliance and TM Disputes: Trouble in Reliance land?

The feuding Reliance brothers, Anil and Mukesh, seem to have other things except family rivalry that have thrust them into the spotlight of late. They are neck deep in business decisions that could land them in trademark disputes.

‘I’ think this may spell trouble!

In what seems like an obvious attempt to cash in on Apple’s fortunes, the Mint reports that the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has filed an application in India to register the mark ‘I PHONE’ under Class 41 and Class 16 of Indian trademark registrations. Astonishingly what differentiates the proposed Reliance marks and the well known Apple brand ‘iPhone’ is that Anil Ambani spells his with a capital ‘I’ and ‘P’ or as an alternative all the letters in lower case!

Interestingly, Cisco Systems Inc. was the original registered owner of the trademark ‘I Phone’ in 2000 and had as recently as 2007 entered a high profile settlement with Apple for the use of the mark.

This blogger however wonders what elder brother Mukesh is thinking about now- especially considering Reliance Retail exclusively partners Apple around the country in the setting up of the iStores which sell all Apple products from Macs to iPods, to (hold your breath), the iPhone!

BIG Trouble up ahead!

Big Reliance, Big Bazaar, Big Fresh Mall, Reliance Big Bazar, Reliance Big Retail, Big FM, Big Cinemas, Big TV, Reliance Big Boy, Reliance Big Lots, Reliance Big Box, Reliance Big, Big Flix and Big Pictures. What’s so odd about this lot of trademarks? They don’t all belong to one individual or company!

Companies owned by the feuding siblings and the Future Group (Pantaloon Retail) have all applied for similar marks in the last three years in market areas where the other’s brand is already established; potentially putting them in direct competition! Interestingly, while splitting the Dhirubhai Ambani empire, the brothers entered into a 10-year non-compete agreement which demands that one group cannot enter the business in which the other is already present. The Mint however states that there is “no clarity on whether the agreement puts restrictions on entering existing businesses at the time of the de-merger, or applies to new ventures as well.”

The BIG secret behind the use of this common word in those marks at least in the case of the Reliance brothers remains a mystery. It is still unclear whether the same originated from a common pool of assets and marks that were meant to be shared; if they did not, an opposition is almost inevitable. As of now, the brothers are both strangely silent on the matter.

However, the other party involved in this dispute refuses to back down without a fight! Anil Ambani’s R-Adag is currently locked in a trademark dispute in the registration of “Reliance Big Bazar”, opposed by none other than the country’s largest publicly traded retailer, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd.

One thing remains certain however- with the Ambani brothers going on this trademark spree, ‘I’ think BIG trouble is brewing!


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1 thought on “Reliance and TM Disputes: Trouble in Reliance land?”

  1. Reliance has a very bad IP policy to say the least. I wonder how the application for the mark BIG BAZAR was advertised in the fist place. I dont think Pantaloon would be taking the plea of the mark being descriptive having a registration for the same. Would want to see how this pans out. Interesting!!

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