This Trademark is Expressly Ours, says IE

Trademark troubles have emerged yet again between two media groups in India — this time between The Indian Express (IE) and The New Indian Express (NIE), owned by different members of the family of the late Indian newspaper baron Ramnath Goenka.

The New Indian Express, which has an extensive presence in southern India, has recently launched a weekly newspaper, The Sunday Standard, in New Delhi, which displays the brand of the mother paper. (Image from here.)

According to this report in DNA, IE has sued NIE in the Delhi High Court on grounds that such display allegedly violates a 1995-agreement between the parties that prevents the use of the title in states other than Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa where NIE has a right to operate in. This news report in Mint also refers to a decree passed by the Madras High Court in 1995, where such terms appear to have been finalised.

According to the lawyer representing The New Indian Express, quoted by DNA, “the title is a registered trademark and hence it is the prerogative of the organization to use it anywhere it chooses to,” and that the 1995-settlement talks only about daily newspapers and not weekly publications … and hence the premise of the latest case itself is mis-guided.

I haven’t explored the registration details of the trademark/s in question, but if there are territorial limitations of use imposed on the registration, it is likely that NIE’s first line of defence may not hold. The terms of use under the 1995-agreement will also be interesting to study as regards use in a daily versus use in a weekly.

Ramnath Goenka, known for his open fight against Indira Gandhi and the Emergency in the 1970s, founded The Indian Express in (then) Madras in 1936. Some of you may even recall his on-screen portrayal by Mithun Chakraborty in Guru (2007). Goenka died in 1991, following which his family split the publishing business into two separate companies, i.e. (sic), the Indian Express and The New Indian Express.

As is wont with such businesses, professional relations are always on a tether. IE had apparently sued NIE last year in the Bombay High Court for trademark infringement, against the use of the stylised mark “ie”. According to the Mint and DNA reports, the parties reached a settlement, under the terms of which NIE agreed not to use the mark in any of their publications.

Newspapers embroiled in trademark tangles is not a new thing in India — the fight between Bennet & Coleman’s The Times of India and the UK-based The Financial Times has been ongoing since the 1980s, which readers will recall we have covered here previously. With India being one of the last surviving (and growing) newspaper markets in the world, it ought to come as no surprise that trademark turf battles continue to be fought here. More is yet to come?

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