This article is written by Anshal Dhiman. The article talks about the recent trademark change of Myntra, its effects on the e-commerce website, and the role of social media in it.
This isn’t a story you are hearing for the first time. Some think it was a publicity stunt, some think this was a genuine problem. The Myntra logo change surely did attract some attention to the company, for both positive and negative reasons. Many of us surely would not have noticed the issue with the logo, while some of us might have reached an intellectual level too good for normal humans. The author leaves it up to the reader to decide how the Myntra logo was insulting and offensive towards women. Myntra received a lot of social media hate when the news got public but in reality, Myntra was not the only party that faced trolls and publicity on the internet. The social activist, Naaz Ekta Patel, who had filed a complaint against Myntra, also faced a lot of trolls and backlash on the internet because of her action. Further sections in the article will discuss in detail about the issue in a descriptive manner.
Trademarks in India
Trademarks are a part of Intellectual Property Rights. In India, trademarks are regulated by the Trademarks Act of 1999. Before 1940, there was no trademark law in India. In 1940, the first Indian Trade Marks Act was passed in the parliament which was repealed and replaced by the Trademark Act of 1958, which again was repealed and replaced by the currently active Trademarks Act, 1999. The 1999 Trademarks act was enacted to be in compliance with the TRIPs (Trade related aspects of intellectual property rights). India’s commitments under the TRIPs agreement are to protect, distinguish, recognize service marks, and look over the procedures of licensing and registration of the trademarks. Another feature of the act is that it gives police the right to arrest people in case of trademark infringements, although in the present case there was no trademark infringement, but a moral public policy issue.
Getting a trademark registered is a lengthy procedure in India. The person who wants to register a trademark first has to file an application, which is then reviewed by the trademarks office, which may or may not raise objections against the particular trademark in hand. If there are any objections raised, the applicant may have to prove them wrong by providing evidence in his support. If the applicant is not able to provide sufficient evidence in his defense, the application might be, then, abandoned and the registration can be refused. But the issue can also be heard before a tribunal where the parties may clarify their objections and provide evidence in their defense. After clearing all the issues mentioned thus, the trademark is given a 4 month period for any public objections, and if there are no objections then the application is proceeded further for registration, after the completion of necessary fees.
Why did Myntra change its logo
This is a very complicated question in itself. Let us take a brief look at what actually happened and what caused this issue to arise. In December 2020, Naaz Ekta Patel, a social activist from Mumbai, lodged a complaint in the Mumbai cyber police branch, alleging that the logo of e-commerce website Myntra was offensive towards women. Naaz Ekta Patel has explained in some interviews how she realized the logo was actually offensive towards women and it was not just a random complaint. She said she had seen people laugh at the logo of Myntra, which she failed to understand why. After some conversations with people around, she realized that the logo was actually disrespectful towards women and it was not just her opinion, following which she lodged a complaint against Myntra. As Myntra was taken over by Flipkart in 2014, the decisions taken here mostly were from the Flipkart decision making bodies. After the complaint was lodged, the Mumbai cyber police sent a legal notice to the e-commerce website. The interesting part comes here. Myntra and Flipkart did not raise any questions as far as the objection was concerned and immediately changed their logo, and also ordered fresh printing of the new logo on their new parcels.
The Mumbai Cyber police found the logo prima facie insulting towards women, which led to the meeting between the police and the e-commerce website. Myntra changed the logo within a month of the complaint and also replaced it everywhere wherever the logo of the company needed to be put. This change of logo might not look like a big deal to many, but this logo change obviously has a lot of ramifications which the company will now have to face. The logo will now have to be replaced on media channels, packaging boxes, product labels, store fronts, in-store branding, and many other places where the logo of the company plays a necessary role. A logo, a trademark is a very important part of a company, it gives and shapes the whole identity of the company involved. This logo change also meant that the company will have to go through some monetary losses too in order to solve the issue of the logos already put up on parcels, with many acquisitions of the company probably going to get wasted and previous assets, research and investment is now of no use and wasted.
It was alleged that the letter “M” in the Myntra logo represented the legs of a woman being open and the middle part depicting the vagina of a woman. This was the obscene part of the logo which made the social activist, Naaz Ekta Patel unhappy with the logo, and prompted her to take legal action against the company. The funny and weird part here is that, to many naked eyes, the Myntra logo looks nothing like what it was depicted by the complainant but after the news became public and people read about the story, almost everyone saw the ‘obscene’ part of the logo which was hidden to them for many years before this. It is possible that Myntra had to change the representation of its identity and suffer monetary losses because a part of the crowd had an imagination power superior to others and decided to use it to find problems in the well working trademark of the company.
Whatever might be the reason, the case did not go unnoticed on social media and attracted many memes to it. There were both positive and negative reactions to this news. Some people were not happy with Myntra for using an offensive logo for so long, while some people criticized Naaz Ekta Patel for focusing on too much detail and that there was nothing wrong with the logo, while there was another group of netizens which was focused solely on making memes and to use the best of the situation to gain followers and to show their humorous side to the world.
The social activist, Naaz Ekta Patel, had to go through very bad and harsh social media trolling, which also interfered with her work at a time. Avesta Foundation, the NGO that Naaz works for, was criticized on social media and people berated it very much. Naaz also said in an interview that her NGO and the members were also harassed online, with personal comments being made against her, comments like “women with short hair are loyal to no one”. Myntra, as we have talked about above, had to go through all the changes and monetary losses in the process of changing its logo. To a typical eye, the logo would show up as the letter set ‘M’ with a few shades of pink and orange yet a few activists resolved to eliminate the brand as they discovered it to be hostile to ladies. Further, Social media savages looked for the shock and marked the logo as “disgusting and stigmatizing to ladies”. The issue brought logos of other companies to light too. The logo of Fortis hospital was used as a funny example as people said that it resembles a catch being dropped and was offensive. The logos of Kwality Walls, McDonald’s, Lupin, Volkswagen, Renault etc. all served as great meme materials for people online as the public tried to digest the new reality of the Myntra logo which people had not noticed before.
Other such scenarios
This was not the first time that the trademark of a company was famous for the wrong reasons. In 1971, Ford launched a car named Pinto. The problem was that the word ‘pinto’ roughly translates to male genitals in Brazil. The car did not get much revenue for the company and was eventually withdrawn by them. Similarly, the logo of Arlington Pediatric Center got into the bad news when it launched its logo in 2009. Institute of Oriental Studies, Catholic Church’s Archdiocesan Youth Club, Office of Government commerce, a US treasury branch etc. all are very famous examples of when things didn’t go very well for the companies with respect to their logos.
But on the other side of things, the issue is very serious as trademarks are a very important component of a company’s identity, and any changes to it, especially in a circumstance like this where the logo had to be changed not because of infringement but because of an observation which made the logo look obscene for the society. There are many important aspects to a trademark. An enrolled brand name may decide to be an important resource for your business. These resources hold on increasing in value over the long run. As your business advances, the estimation of the brand names scale up naturally. Thus, if your business creates, your brand name likewise fills in worth. An enrolled brand name builds up responsibility for brand, name or logo. It saves your image from any unapproved utilization of the outsider. The enrolled brand name shows that the item has a place with you and you have select rights to utilize, sell, and alter the brand. A brand that is one of a kind and diverse should be enrolled as all business requires a brand or logo that sticks out, which recognizes your image from that of others. Subsequently, an enlisted brand name gives a remarkable personality to your image.
The whole issue with the Myntra logo change was in one way or another overhyped. Some people believe the act was a publicity stunt, while some believe that the brands have been trying to sexualize their representation for a long time in order to get financial profits. If this act was a publicity stunt, it is safe to say that it was very well planned and of course it became successful. But if the latter theory is to be believed as the truth, there are many questions that rise from the inference. In any way both the parties suffered from this issue. The complainant had to go through hate on social media, with people making comments about her personal life, her appearance and her NGO that has been working for the welfare of senior citizens of the society. On the other hand, big e-commerce website Myntra, which is believed to have got free publicity from this stunt, also went through some social media backlash from activists and feminists around the country, along with the monetary losses that they had to suffer from the changes they had and will have to make in the future with respect to the new logo. The case is a very good example of how small issues get hyped and find the attention of people on the internet, who contribute to the cause.
LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join: