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This article has been written by Ch. Leela Madhuri., pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho. It has been edited by Aatima Bhatia (Associate, LawSikho) and Smriti Katiyar (Associate, LawSikho).

Introduction

At present, the world is revolving around Intellectual Property for protecting the rights of owners, and improving novelty or originality. Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are the four types of intellectual properties. Having the knowledge, one can protect their ideas and inventions. These four IPs have different functions and protect one’s rights in different ways. A patent is given to an inventor as a title for his invention by the government. The invention has to be novel and useful. Whereas copyright is a form of protection provided by the government to the authors of original work of authorship. Copyrights are concerned with writing, pictures, music, art, and other forms of intellectual works. Whereas trademark is a manner for an enterprise to assist human beings to discover the goods that the enterprise makes from merchandise made through any other enterprise. Whereas trade secrets are any piece of special company data that offers any enterprise an aggressive benefit that may be taken into consideration as an alternate secret. In simple words, the confidential data of any enterprise are trade secrets. Trade secrets are generally tradeable. So many disputes have taken place due to trademark infringement around the world. One of the conflicts regarding Trademark Infringement is explained in this article. The present article sheds light on the KSRTC conflict over who gets the trademark. 

About trademark

A trademark is a word, symbol or phrase, used to identify the goods of a particular manufacturer or supplier and to recognize them from the products of others. So, to identify them, they have assigned brand names like Gucci, Apple, Mc Donald’s, etc. To fulfill their sole purpose from consumers who want to choose between different goods of the same type in the market the Trademarks must be legally protected. A trademark can be protected based on use or registration. With use, one can know that a certain trademark belongs to a particular company or individual, and with the help of registration one can easily know that the mark has been registered. The period of trademark registration can change. But in general, it is ten years. It may be restored until further notice on the price of extra fees. 

As usual, anyone who intends to use a trademark or have it used by third parties can apply to register it. Trademarks can be purchased and traded usually. Trademark ownership can change for different reasons and in different ways. And sometimes, trademark rights may be surrendered due to rejection, improper assignment or licensing, or generality. A trademark is deserted when its use has been discontinued and determined to be discontinued. While in the Trademark registrations some of the marks are prohibited or rejected by trademark officers if the trademark is similar or has a similar meaning to others. Whereas using such trademarks without the consent of the owner causes trademark infringements, which are severely punishable. And most importantly a registered trademark must be renewed regularly to keep it alive and to protect one’s IP.

What is the conflict concerning the KSRTC trademark?

The acronym KSRTC (Karnataka and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) has been used by both states i.e Karnataka and Kerala for their public transport services for many decades now. But Kerala and Karnataka SRTCs have been fighting over the custody of the acronym for the past seven years. Several members are being dependent upon public transportation networks for their daily travel in both states. So the people’s confusion is being aroused as both states have the same acronym for using the online transport methods. At present days the world is being simplified by using internet applications. This acronym is making it a little bit difficult for people. Even though both states are not having any problems for the last decades. In 2014 Karnataka sent a legal notice to Kerala State Road Transport Corporation forbidding the use of the term or acronym KSRTC, by declaring that they had acquired the trademark. With this in mind, the chairman and managing director of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation applied for trademark registration with the central government for Kerala. But, it is said by the Trademark Registrar that the acronym was already registered in the name of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation. Then there was a seven-year legal battle between two states. 

The registration of an acronym as a trademark is not restricted by the Trademark Act of 1999, although the use of abbreviations, as in this case, has acquired a secondary meaning that may be important to the state in some way, be it historical, immense reputation, or good company value, then the chances of getting this trademark registered to appear to be very good. Though, registering such an acronym would raise legal issues if someone else used the same acronym. 

Who won the trademark KSRTC between Kerala and Karnataka?

The acronym KSRTC, short for Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, is brand and the nickname Aanavandi (elephant cart) belongs to Kerala today. The logo issued an ordinance permitting the call KSRTC, that’s generally used for avenue vehicles. Transport Corporation of Kerala and Karnataka, that’s now the simplest utilized in Kerala. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation is one amongst the oldest nation and managed public avenue delivery offerings in India, supported in 1938 and at one time referred to as the Travancore State Department of Transport, it were now no longer restructured till 1965 and feature grow to be referred to as State Road Transport Corporation: Established in 1948, the nation-State Road Transport Corporation, previously referred to as the Mysore Government Road Transport Department, turned into renamed the Karnataka Transport Corporation in 1973. 

At last Kerala with the help of Trademark Registars first user rule acquired the Trademark of the acronym KSRTC. The first user rule means the first one to use or register the Trademark. In this case, Kerala was the first one to use the acronym KSRTC by showing the proof by delivering clear evidence of old buses, bus garages, sheets from journals of previous Transport Ministers, and concerning details of their transport services. In addition, it is important to analyze the meaning of the term secondary meaning because, while the acronym KSRTC is in itself indistinguishable, it should be noted that this acronym has acquired secondary meaning over time within what was taken into account is that the acronym KSRTC is likely to denote very different things in terms of time and extent, and in this case, Kerala SRTC along with the nickname Aanavandi took precedence over Karnataka SRTC. As can be seen in this scenario, it can be concluded that acronyms/characters have some secondary meaning for a given state.

So, at the end of all these never-ending seven years disputes Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has finally acquired the Trademark and acronym of KSRTC on June 3rd, 2021 Thursday. 

Conclusion

This dispute between the 2 states i.e., Kerala and Karnataka, has arranged down several necessary ideas to be pondered upon by the legal fraternity. As this has not been resolved by a Judicial establishment, this can’t be thought of as legal precedence, however certainly (sure enough) has enlightened on certain rules, approaches and practices to be followed in Trademark Cases. Not solely the primary use rule has been employed in this explicit dispute, but, vital importance has been connected to the historical significance of the topic matter, which was an acronym/mark within the gift case. Trademarks could be a sort of intellectual property right, and it’s crucial to notice the importance of a specific intellectual property right to the section of individuals it belongs to. This dispute has in no method noncontinuous the peaceful understanding between the 2 states and may even conjointly use the descriptor in an exceedingly disciplined manner.

Conclusively, Biju Prabhakar, MD of KSRTC and Minister of Transportation of Kerala said a notification would be sent to the Karnataka Transportation Corporation asking them to stop using the brand name on their buses. Nevertheless, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation opted to seek all legal options. At the disposal to overturn the Central Registry of Trademarks’ recent ruling in favor of Kerala Road Transport Corporation, to use the term KSRTC only. 

References

  1. KSRTC Name Case: After 7-year Long Battle, Kerala Wins Trademark Dispute Against Karnataka
  1.  KSRTC v. KSRTC Trademark Battle!
  1. Abbreviations as Trademarks- Kerala v. Karnataka! #KSRTC
  1. KSRTC Name Case: Kerala Wins 7-Year-Long Dispute, Gets To Keep KSRTC Trademark For Road Transport
  1. Kerala wins ‘KSRTC’ trademark, Karnataka says this kind of dispute is not good
  1. Two states, one brand: how Kerala won the battle against Karnataka for KSRTC trademark
  1.  ‘KSRTC’ now belongs to Kerala after 7 years of a legal battle with Karnataka 

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