Incredible India it certainly is, for even as the deadline for opposing the grant of a patent has passed, the Tourism Ministry sits smug in its belief that its trademark is guarded from all evil eyes. To cut a long story short, Las Vegas, US-based tour operator AMX Company has filed a trademark patent for the “Discover Incredible India” tagline, which will grant it exclusive rights to use it for publicity of its products. The filing, done last December, was published by the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) for opposition; if not opposed within a period of one month, AMX would be granted the patent. Not that the Tourism Ministry is worried.
“We have a copyright over Incredible India registered here and the Ministry of Tourism has exclusive rights over the mark,” informs Leena Nandan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism. Nandan says the ministry allows tour operators to use the logo (with the ‘I’ in India represented by an exclamation mark). But she also admits that the logo is not registered in the US—leaving it open to appropriation by anybody. “But then, this way we will have to register the logo in every country,” she counters.
Exactly what Pravin Anand, Managing Partner, Anand and Anand, a trademarks and patent attorney, says. “Trademarks and logos need to be registered in every country, or at least the key markets,” he points out. If the logo or mark was being used in a descriptive manner, it wouldn’t be an issue.
“However, given that the logo has been filed under Trademark/Service Mark classification, it would appear that the company is trying to gain monopoly over the logo,” he warns. If the patent is granted, the ministry might have to explore whether a cancellation petition can be filed. “Not that the Ministry will be barred from using the Incredible India logo, considering that it has been using it for a longer period of time,” he clarifies. That’s a nuisance value no doubt, and one that comes for a measly $325—the fee for filing the patent.
—Tejeesh N. S. Behl