Intellectual Property Dispute : Brahmos ’ Head-On Collision With Fiit Jee Ltd!
For those of you who are wondering if they you have hit the wrong blog, please sit back. This is indeed about Intellectual Property and what I have referred to (in my title) is about the trademark ‘BRAHMOS’. As most of you would be aware, the term ‘BRAHMOS’ is quite popular in relation to supersonic missiles and now the same seems to have rendered a severe blow to two educational institutions, FIIT JEE Ltd and USA Univ Quest.
The Dispute And Outcome
The Delhi High Court recently granted an injunction restraining the two institutions from using the mark ‘BRAHMOS’ in a suit filed by Brahmos Aerospace Pvt Ltd, which is notably a subsidiary of Defence Research and Development Organization The two institutions had been using the mark ‘BRAHMOS’ in relation to an aptitude test which they were marketing in various forms of digital and print media!
Apart from the usage of the mark ‘BRAHMOS’ which had instigated Brahmos Aerospace to file a suit, what added fuel to the fire was an alleged email received by the HR department of Bhramos Aerospace from a particular student enquiring if any preference for employment would be given by the missile major if the said aptitude test (by the educational institutions) was taken!
Though the educational institutions did contend that only the term “Brahmand” and not ‘BRAHMOS’ was used by the missile manufacturer in relation to educational activities, the Delhi High Court, overruling the said contention, observed
It is an undisputed fact that the trademark BRAHMOS is a registered trademark which is associated with substantial segment of the public as the same is being used for supersonic missile in the aerospace industry… Thus, I have no hesitation to come to the conclusion that the trademark BRAHMOS is a well-known trademark. The moment BRAHMOS comes within the range of well-known trademark, it is even protected in relation to dissimilar services.
The High Court, in a nutshell, held that the educational institutions had used the said mark to deliberately take advantage of the reputation it enjoyed.
Since a strong prima facie case had been satisfactorily made out by Brahmos Aerospace against the educational institutions and the Court was also of the view that usage of the mark by the educational institutions would result in irreparable loss and injury to the missile major, the Delhi Court went on to grant an interim injunction against usage of the mark ‘BRAHMOS’ by the educational institutions.
In my personal opinion, this is quite an interesting issue and I really wonder why the educational institutions went on to adopt a mark such as ‘BRAHMOS.’ A little research revealed that the domain names brahmos.com, brahmos.co.in, brahmos.in, brahmos.org all belong to the missile manufacturer. The trademark ‘BRAHMOS’ per se appears to be registered by Brahmos Aerospace in a variety of classes (including class 41). So considering all this and the common popularity of the term ‘BRAHMOS’ usage of the said mark by these educational institutions only makes me wonder all the more. This ruling yet again re-emphasizes the importance of principles like ‘well-known trademark’ and ‘trademark dilution.’ Though ‘BRAHMOS’ per se was not popularly known to be used by Brahmos Aerospace in relation to education, the High Court had clearly recognized the fact that ‘BRAHMOS’ was a popular term used by the missile major and deserved protection as a well known trademark.
Though concepts of well-known trademark and ‘trademark dilution’ have become the essence of Trademark law in India, still several trademark infringement issues, keep cropping up. The reason for this is debatable. Perhaps utter disregard for the law or ignorance of the law. While no preventive action can be suggested for the former, the second type could easily be prevented by keeping abreast of current trademark trends and principles;
So I guess, keep reading up on trademarks, and don’t infringe!