Trinamool v. Trinamul: Name War for Political Parties
A recent dispute between two Indian political parties namely the All India Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Trinamul Congress Party (NTCP) over use of phonetically similar name has sparked off a debatable issue relating to applicability of trademark laws while registering names of political parties.
Reportedly, the whole matter came up before the Election Commission (EC) after Trinamool Congress objected to NTCP’s use of a phonetically similar name “Trinamul”. Here it would be relevant to mention that an order (No. 56/2014/PPS-I) issued by the Election Commission on May 19, 2014 has directed that political parties seeking registration under the Representation of People Act, 1951 shall not have any religious connotation and the names should not be similar to the names of existing political parties that may lead to confusion.
There are other political parties existing as well which have similar names like Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India. Similarly there are other political parties like DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) which have similar names of parties.
Names, logos, symbols and the recently evolved trend of slogans for promotions like Har Haath Shakti, Har Haath Tarraki (of Indian National Congress) and Ache Din Ane Wale Hai (of Bhartiya Janta Party) serve as a major identifier for political parties. Some political parties have registered or applied for registration of their parties’ names, like in the present case, NTCP had rebutted Trinamool Congress’s objection by stating that it had applied for trademark registration of the name “Trinamul” and the same could not be claimed as “personal property” by a political outfit (as reported by the Times of India on November 18, 2015).
*Abhishek Banerjee, proprietor of the trademark All India Trinamool Congress (Device) and Amitabha Majumdar, proprietor of the trademark Nationalist Trinamul Congress Party are candidates of the respective political parties.
As noted above, the applicability of trademark law which also prohibits the use of an identical mark or a deceptively similar mark is relevant in the instant case or not is yet to be seen.
Typically, a trademark serves meaning and function in relation to goods and services and its use in commerce or in the course of trade. Hence, the present case is an interesting one and whether the applicability of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 while registering names of political parties (which do not serve any practical commercial purpose) is relevant or not is a contentious issue in the present dispute.