The Controller General of Patents PH Kurian has announced that India will join the Madrid System of Trademarks within one year, setting off a warning to Indian companies to ‘register it, or lose it’ as far as their brand names are concerned.
India had been negotiating with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to join the System for several years, but has never officially confirmed its decision to join. Once India joins the System, foreign companies who have registered a trademark can force Indian companies — most of which never register their trademarks — to stop offering products and services that have names similar to theirs.
Kurian said there are several cases already of Indian companies being forced out of the market after foreign firms register a similar sounding brand name in India. However, unlike so far, from next year onwards, foreign firms will not have to even register their trademarks in India separately, as the Madrid System will extend their existing registration to India as well.
If the Indian firm has not registered its trademark, the company will have to start selling under a new brand not resembling the existing one. If the Indian firm too has registered, the Courts will decide on the matter depending on who can prove the earliest use of the trademark.
The problem is especially relevant to small businesses.. The foreign company starts off a big round of litigation which cannot be countered by small companies.. In the end, many have been forced to become outsourced manufacturers for the new owners of the trademark. He adds that chances of conflict are high after the Madrid System comes into effect as the same words and names are often used by companies in different countries.