[SpicyIP Tidbit] Travelkhana lands in pickle ; sued for copyright and trademark infringement by IRCTC

download (1)It appears that the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) has served a legal notice on Travelkhana – a popular train e-caterer – alleging copyright and trademark infringement by Travelkhana’s mobile app IR Catering . It claims that IR Catering is deceptively similar in the name, colour scheme and design to the IRCTC’s own mobile application – IRCTC Connect. In a notice sent to Travelkhana last week, the IRCTC demanded that Travelkhana take its app off Google Play and pay up five lakh rupees as damages within a week from the date of receipt of the notice(source).

Although Travelkhana did, in fact, take IR Catering off Google Play in a surprisingly quick move, I was able to find a listing of the app here. IRCTC Connect is listed on GooglePlay here.

unnamed (3) Travelkhana is not the only web-based caterer offering its services to train travelers weary of the largely unappealing pantry car meals – merafoodchoice, trainkhana and yatrachef present other alternatives. A glimpse at the TravelKhana blog reveals the enthusiasm with which it  describes IRCTC’s role in facilitating the functioning of e-catering services – suggesting that their operation has, in all likelihood, been authorized by the Indian Railway authorities. The question as to the legality of TravelKhana’s train catering services, therefore, does not seem to arise. The only other question that remains to be answered is whether Travelkhana’s app really does infringe on IRCTC’s rights.

IR Catering‘s deceptive name slyly and not-so-subtly hints at the app’s non-existent affiliation with the Indian Railways – what else could “IR” in “IR Catering” possibly stand for? The average Indian would quite easily be fooled into thinking that this was the IRCTC’s own catering service. Upon a closer comparison between the two, it becomes quite evident that not only the combination, but also the shades of colours used by TravelKhana for its app logo bear close resemblance to the red, purple and blue-green swirls used by the IRCTC in its own app logo. From what I can make of the screenshots of both the apps made available in the linked pages, Travelkhana’s app doesn’t appear to have incorporated any particularly misleading elements in its design – however,it is difficult to draw a definitive conclusion without scrutinizing the original app itself.

Considering how easily TravelKhana relented and pulled back its app in response to IRCTC’s notice, it seems unlikely that the parties will battle it out in Court. The damages question is also likely to be settled out of Court unless Travelkhana, in an uncharacteristic turn of events, decides to challenge the Indian Railways to a nice little legal duel. But the fact that Travelkhana might have already replaced its original app with THIS new one makes me question the slightest probability of that happening.

We’ll just have to wait and see how this one pans out.

Kiran George

Kiran Mary George is a Third Year student at ILS Law College, Pune. Her first stint in the world of Intellectual Property law was an internship with a registered copyright society that granted her an insight into the world of copyright in music. Since then, her interest in IPR has taken strong hold, and she enjoys keeping close tabs on developments in the field. She is still discovering her interests, but so far takes a special liking to open access, copyright and trademarks.

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