Do you know how an Indian man delayed Sony’s Play Station 5 launch in India? Or when Louis Vuitton had to sue a restaurant for using the iconic LV design? Read on to find out!
What is a Trademark?
Imagine having a symbol reminiscent of one’s particular identity and which cannot be used by anyone else? That is a trademark.
A trademark is a special symbol, design, word, or phrase created as an identifier for an individual or organization (firms, companies, corporates, NGOs, shops, and various other commercial establishments) to establish their presence in that particular field.
Why should one get their brand trademarked?
A good trademark not only helps imprint their brand presence in the minds of people but also builds positive feelings of faith and goodwill among the masses.
A clever and innovative logo can catch the eye and aid in engraving that particular organization’s presence in the subconscious of people.
The Trademarks Act
Although trademarks are universal and can be registered by almost everyone in the world, there is also a rule that restricts the use of these trademarks to a particular extent.
After all, a logo is someone’s intellectual property and the misuse of someone else’s property is illegal.
Anyone using a particular symbol or logo that is already registered as a trademark for other purposes or to sell fake goods is considered felonious and is indictable by law.
In India, the Trademarks Act, 1999 defines trademark infringement under Section 29. Anyone using a registered trademark without proper authorization is considered an infringement.
How do we know if a particular logo is trademarked?
Identifying whether a logo is trademarked or not is particularly easy. If there is a small ™ symbol near the motif, it shows that the logo has been applied for the status of a trademark. The ® symbol near the logo signifies that it is already registered as a trademark with a valid authority.
There have been many cases where a particular organization duplicated another’s logo and ended up getting sued for trademark infringement. Some of these are:
1. Sony vs. Hitesh Aswani
Sony was flabbergasted to know that their most awaited product, the new Play Station 5 (PS5) had already been trademarked by a man in Delhi by the name of Hitesh Aswani.
According to Mako Reactor, Aswani had trademarked the PS5 long ago in October 2019, whereas Sony only applied for it in February 2020.
This led Sony to sue Aswani on grounds of trademark infringement to contest for its brand name under the Trademarks Act, 1999.
As for the reasons as to why Aswani had possession of the trademark? It’s a mystery.
As of October 2020, the dispute has been rectified due to an apparent (and quite sudden) withdrawal of the trademark application filed by Aswani, and consequently, Sony released the PS5 as of late 2020.
Result: The dispute got rectified with Aswani’s withdrawal.
2. Louis Vuitton vs. Louis Vuiton Dak
This might be one of the most baffling trademark cases in the history of the South Korean judiciary.
Global designer Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit against a South Korean fried chicken restaurant named ‘Louis Vuiton Dak’ which is…quite a close hit to the original name.
The South Korean court ruled in favour of the French designer since the names are too similar and the logo and packaging were like exact copies too.
The restaurant was charged $1250 as a fine and ordered to change its name and logo.
Here’s the interesting part:
Despite receiving the order from the court, the fried chicken restaurant decided to change its name to ‘Louisvui Tondak’!
This earned the restaurant an additional fine of $14.5 million for non-compliance. (Perhaps obeying the court order shouldn’t be so hard.)
Result: Court ruled in favour of Louis Vuitton.
What happens when someone is prosecuted for trademark infringement?
Being dragged to court over a trademark dispute is not a trivial matter.
There are lots of costs associated with a suit, including legal fees, court fees, documentation fees, fines, and the ultimate punishment of having to destroy any product/good that has the trademarked content on it, should the court rule against them.
What do I do if someone else is using my trademarked logo?
If you are completely sure that someone is unlawfully making use of your trademarked motif, follow these steps:
Get in touch with an experienced legal practitioner.
Send notice or letter to the infringer clearly stating the infringement, and demand them to stop.
If they continue to make use of your trademarked logo, file for a trademark infringement lawsuit.
In most cases, settling the matter outside the court can protect your business from unnecessary publicity, but if the situation worsens, a legal suit is required.