Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel joins global league, acquires image trademark
WHAT’S IN IT? A trademark identifies the brand owner of a particular product or service and serves as badge of origin
NEWDELHI: HotelTajMahalmaybe set to join the big league of buildings that have an image trademark, the likes of Empire State Building in NewYork, Burj Khalifa Dubai, Eiffel Tower in Paris andSydneyOperaHouseetc. But first what exactly is an image trademarkandwhatisthebenefit of acquiring it?
Atrademarkisarecognisable sign, design, expression which identifies products or services of aparticular source fromthose of others.
In layperson terms, a trademark identifies the brandowner of aparticular productorservice and serves as a badge of origin. The trademark owner can be an individual, business organisation or any legal entity. According to leading lawyer Sudip Mullick, partner, Khaitan& Co., “The ownerofatrademarkuponregistration thereof, is entitled to the exclusive use of the mark and prohibit the use of the mark by others upon or in relation their goodsorservices. Theexclusivity is with a view to protect the misappropriationofthegoodwilland reputation associated with the particular mark by third parties without the authorization of the ownerofthemark. Thebenefit of acquiring the registration for the image of the building is that no third party canusearepresentation of theimageofthebuildingas a trademark.” The owner of a trademark may pursue legal action against infringement.
However trademark protection for an image of a building is not a common occurrence. Explains Nishad Nadkarni – Associate Partner, Khaitan & Co - “Theownerofaparticularbuilding / structure would be eligible to register thebuilding asatrademarkifthestructureofthebuilding is distinctive, associated with the ownerinsuchamannersoas to be capable of distinguishing anyproducts or services uponor in relation to which it is used as those originating fromtheowner of such building.”
Has Taj Mahal hotel got its image trademark? According to legal luminaries, there appear to be at least three applications for images of various aspects of the hotel building, one of which is pending and two of which have proceeded to registration. While no objections were raised by the Trade Marks Registry office (TMR) withrespecttothetworegistered marks during the examination stage, an objection as to non-distinctiveness has been raised in the third application. The trademark registration application is still pending, confirms Mullick.
Buthowmuchtimedoesittypically take from the time one applies to thetimeoneacquiresit. According to Nishad Nadkarni – Associate Partner, Khaitan& Co, “In the event that there are no objections raised by the TMR in the course of the examination process the registration process usually takes about 1.5 years to two years. In the recent past, the processing of applications bythe TMR has become quite fast. The registrations which have been granted have taken less than a year to be granted since there were no objections raised by the TMR – the applications were madeinOctober2016andtheregistration was granted in May 2017. However, if there are objectionsraised bytheTMRorifthere are opposition proceedings, then it is likely to take muchlongerfor the mark to proceed to registration. Thethirdapplication which was also made in October 2016 is pendingsincetheTMRhasraised objections in the examination report.”
Thebenefitofthetrademarkis that it will ensure that commercial use of the image of its dome and grand exterior can be made only with the consent of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris. Explaining the need to acquire a trademark, Rajendra Misra, Sr. VP, General Consul, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris explains -“We felt strongly about protectingandbringingforththedistinctiveness of this most recogniSed building in India. For more than a century, the Taj dome has anchoredtheMumbaiskyline– it is anirreplaceablepartofthesoul of the city. It ultimately leads to protecting the goodwill of the hotel.”
Who designed this building? Apparently, seniorarchitectSitaram Khanderao Vaidya signed the plansfor this grandhotelthat he and D. N. Mirza submitted to Jamsetji N. Tata in the late 1890s. When Sitaram died of malaria in the 1900s; his work was then taken over by W. A. Chambers, who modified the central dome and its surrounding satellites into what the company spokes- personcalls as“aless exotic compromise between F. W. Stevens Oriental and Florentine Renaissance. Although less dramatic thanit mighthavebeen, the massive 240-feet high central dome hasbecomeoneofthedistinctive landmarks of Mumbai city.”
The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai