- May 29, 2021
- Posted by: Maestro Legal
By Riya Mittal
TAGLINE REGISTRATION AS A TRADEMARK
Section 2(m) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 defines “mark” as including a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any combination thereof. It is seen that the legislation provides for a tagline or combination of words to be included within the ambit of the definition of mark.
Trademark is defined under the Act as a mark capable of being represented graphically and of being able to distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of others in the course of trade.1 Therefore, it is seen that a brand tagline is capable of being reduced to two-dimensional representation on paper. It is submitted that the distinctiveness criterion has a close nexus with Section 9(1) of the Trademarks Act under absolute grounds for refusal of registration.
In order for a brand tagline to qualify as a trademark, it must be distinctive,by acquiring secondary meaning and goodwill,and must not be descriptive of thefeatures of the products and services in respect of which it is used. The brand tagline by itself also must not indicate anything which has become customary in the established trade practices of that particular business.
Reebok India Company v. Gomzi Active
Karnataka High Court in this case held that the person claiming the benefit of distinctive usage has to establish that over a period of time the concerned trade slogan has developed a secondary meaning and goodwill.3 The Court accepted Reebok’s (Defendant) contention that the phrase “I AM WHAT I AM” is generic in nature and has not any acquired distinctive character in relation to the goods produced by Gomzi Active.4 It was further held that both parties were operating under different and distinct trade names and by the mere use of the common phrase and expression “I AM WHAT I AM” it cannot be said that a customer with reasonable prudence would be misled to purchase the products manufactured by Reebok mistaking them for the products manufactured by Gomzi Active.5 It is submitted that extensive advertisement through various modes and subsequent inherent association by consumers of the brand tagline with brand’s products and services would satisfy the test of distinctiveness even if concerned tagline is a common and generic phrase.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in a petition for special leave to appeal6 upheld a Division Bench decision of the Delhi High Court in Procter & Gamble Manufacturing (Tianjin) Co. Ltd. &Ors. v. Anchor Health & Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd.7, wherein the issue of distinctiveness and descriptiveness of brand taglines was discussed and elaborated.8The Court held that
- The expression “ALLROUND PROTECTION” in Anchor’s advertisements and on its product is covered within the meaning of Section 2(m) & (zb) of the Act.
- There is a difference between specific descriptiveness and generic descriptiveness.Forexample,a particular tagline may be descriptive of such features that are unique to the brand’s products but not generic features of the said products. (It is pertinent to note that Anchor was the first in the industry to use “ALLROUND PROTECTION”)
It is submitted that the Court in a way has interpreted a brand’s tagline or its”communicated commercial essence”tobe considered as a unique feature of its products and services, while deciding that is not a descriptive tagline.
TAGLINE REGISTRATION AS A COPYRIGHT
Copyright subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematographic films and sound recordings.
Pepsi Co. Inc. and Anrv. Hindustan Coca Cola and Ors.,
The Delhi High Court in thisheld that advertising slogans are not to be accorded protection under the Copyright Act and they may be protected under the law of passing off.11 The Court also opined that although the task of devising advertising slogans often requires a high level of skill and judgment but they will usually not qualify as original literary works.Law of passing off is not limited to names but is wide enough to encompass other descriptive materials including slogans, as part of goodwill built by extensive advertisement.
Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. v DharampalSatyapal Ltd. & Another
In this case the Delhi High Court followed the ratio of Pepsi Co and held that the advertising slogan “ShauqBadiCheezHain” is a mere combination of common words and hence cannot be granted protection as a literary or artistic work under the Copyright Act since they are as such not an outcome of great skill, and at best can be given protection under the law of passing off provided the requisite case is made out for passing off.
It is submitted that the reason as to why advertising slogans or brand taglines are usually not granted copyright protection is due to the generic use of words in such taglines. Brand taglines are often arrived at after much deliberation and exercise of intellectual activity and hence it may be argued to come under the ambit of originality and creativity in order to be treated as literary or artistic works.
A particular brand tagline may be accorded protection as a trademark if it satisfies the distinctiveness and non-descriptiveness criteria. In case of Tagline comprising of common words or generic phrase, it is through extensive use, advertising and campaigning that a tagline or slogan acquires secondary meaning to the extent consumers and the general public start associating it exclusively with the concerned brand or business.
It is also to be noted that brand taglines are usually not granted copyright protection due to the use of generic common-place words and the Courts are reluctant in considering them to be original literary or artistic works.