Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Supreme Court: Gods, religious texts can’t be trademarked

The Supreme Court has ruled that names of gods or holy books cannot be trademarked to sell goods and services. A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N V Ramana also said that allowing such a thing could offend people’s sensibilities.

“There are many holy and religious books like Quran, Bible, Guru Granth Sahib, Ramayan, etc. The answer to the question as to whether any person can claim the name of a holy or religious book as a trademark for goods or services marketed by him is clearly ‘no’,” said the bench. The bench said as per the law, one cannot take advantage of gods and goddesses to sell products.

The bench was hearing an appeal by Lal Babu Priyadarshi from Patna, who sought to trademark the word ‘Ramayan’ to sell incense sticks and perfumes.

Priyadarshi appealed against the Intellectual Property Appellate Board’s decision in favour of one Amritpal Singh, who contended that ‘Ramayan’ can’t be registered as a trademark as the name of a religious book can’t be monopolised by an individual.

Priyadarshi argued that the law does not bar using the name of a religious book as a trademark, and that there is no evidence on record to show that feelings of any section of Hindus have been hurt by doing so.

But the bench found favour with Singh’s arguments that no individual can be given an exclusive right over gods and holy books, especially to make a profit.

“The word ‘Ramayan’ represents the title of a book written by Maharishi Valmiki and is considered a religious book of the Hindus. Thus, using exclusive name of the book ‘Ramayan’ as a trademark for any commodity cannot be permissible under the (Trade and Merchandise Marks) Act,” held the bench.

It also objected to pictures used by Priyadarshi on packets of incense sticks. “…the photographs of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman are also shown on the label, which is a clear indication that he is taking advantage of gods and goddesses, which is otherwise not permitted,” it said.

The bench took note of the Eighth Report on the Trade Marks Bill, 1993, submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which said any symbol relating to gods or places of worship should not ordinarily be registered as a trademark.

The court added that an entity, wanting to register the ‘Ramayan’ as a trademark, would have to add another word or symbol as suffix or prefix.

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