Trademarkclick .com 22 Jul 2017


If the history of Indian Politics is anything to go buy, one thing is very clear that political slogans were the make or break X Factor which decided the entire fate of the political party towards its struggle for power.

Recently President of the United States Donald Trump trademarked his presidential campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, a slogan so powerful that it directly appealed to the sentiments of the American people and his rise to the White House. Not only that he also plans of trademarking the slogan he plans on using in the 2020 election campaign “Keep America Great”

Now many may get confused so as to how it was possible for him to so. The answer is simple because of the commercial value attached to it. Trump not only politicised his election campaign slogan but marketed it as well, from caps, shirts to banners you could see the slogan “make America Great Again” anywhere and everywhere. The money used was to directly fund his election campaign; rather successfully given he is in White House, much to the ire of the Liberals oh his nations.

Unfortunately, in India the concept of trademarking of slogans has not developed beyond the brand value it is associated with. If the precedent set in the cases of Société des produits Nestlé SA v. Mars UK Ltd and the Phillips Case is anything to go by, the Court clearly observed that it is evident that registration is given to brand taglines is extended only when trade slogan to be validly registered, it must be necessarily distinctive in nature as has been enumerated earlier. However, if a trademark has been repetitively used, it can acquire the required distinctiveness over time by creating a separate and independent impression”,concluding that even a group of words like a tag line is eligible for registration as a trademark, as long as they distinguish the goods/service of the trademark holder, making it compliant with the act.

A public search in the Trademark Registry in all the service classes and the product classes, will show that not a single political party i.e. either the Indian National Congress (Congress), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), nor the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) the three main contenders at the national level for the 2014 elections had filed any application for Registration of their Trademark. Neither the party’s name nor the symbols of the Hand the Lotus and the broom have been registered or even applied for with the Registry. One of the reasons for this can be said to be that the parties have used their signature symbols so extensively that passing off always exists as a remedy.  The crux also being that there is no commercial business value attached to it.

Getting the trademarks registered though may also prove to be rather difficult; the Congress Party uses the Indian Flag with the symbol of the Hand instead of the chakra (wheel). If the party was to apply for that trademark it would definitely be shot down by the Trademark Registry since it would be prohibited under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act. The BJP has raised the issue with the Supreme Court this year stating that the Tricolour should not be used any political party, According to the petitioner of the Writ,

“The Congress has exploited sentiments of common people and has emotionally blackmailed countrymen by using the Tricolour which has three colours in the same order as the National Flag”

Many may ask why there was no protection extended such slogans under copyright laws, the courts position regarding the same is very clear in the Philips case (supra) is also observed by the court that the enumerated slogan cannot fall within the scope of literary or artistic work establishing that slogans are a mere “combination of words which does not require any skill, hence, categorizing it as a Copyright would be incorrect”, which clears the position slogans to have in relation to copyright, would the same extend to political slogans is a matter that needs clarity upon, but given that political slogans in India have a more of sentimental- power play value and not commercial value, it is highly improbable that this matter will be caucused upon anytime sooner.

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