Well-Known Marks In India: Recent Judicial Journey

In this day and age of digital era, the brands are increasingly gaining popularity at a rapid pace and even transcending territorial boundaries. At times, the popularity reaches a stage where use of a brand even in relation to unrelated goods or services, evokes a connection with the original brand owner. Simply put, such famous and reputed brands are known as ‘well-known’ trademarks and protected by the relevant legislations of the country. There have been quite a few developments in this area of trademark law in India in the recent past and this article aims to cover them.

What is a Well-Known Trademark:

While the Indian courts have recognized the reputation and popularity of brands and even accorded them the status of well-known marks under common law for a long time, the concept of a ‘well-known’ trademark was formally introduced by the Trade Marks Act, 1999 (‘Act’).

The Act defines a well-known trademark as a mark which, in relation to any goods or services, has become so to the substantial segment of the public that its use in relation to any other goods or services would likely indicate a connection with the first-mentioned goods or services1. It is well-settled that the mark need not be known to the public at large or the society at large, but it is sufficient if the mark is well-known within a particular segment of the trade or consumers2.