This post was first published on 2nd September, 2014.
If there is one question that can spark a controversy, it must be this – Is it possible to trademark the name of God?
Section 9(2) (b) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, which deals with Absolute grounds for refusal of registration, mandates that a mark shall not be registered as a trademark if it contains any matter likely to hurt religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of India. When a trademark is granted in the name of God, normal people / devotees will not be allowed to use the name of God. Section 9(2)(b) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 does not allow the registration of any trademark that commercializes religious symbols. If allowed, such a registration shall injure the faith of people and temple, for if once such a trademark is registered, the proprietor gains exclusive rights to use the trademark which in turn shall prevent others from using the same, as per Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
The Trade Marks Act also prohibits the registration of personal names like that of Lord Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Sikh gurus etc. It can be argued that the grant of those trademarks which hurt religious susceptibilities of a class or section of the citizens of India, involves objectifying religious symbols and titles. It is of no doubt that the name of a public deity, which is in the public domain, should not be monopolized by protecting it as Intellectual Property. It does, in fact, hurt religious sentiments and also prevent devotees from using the name of the God.
Case laws relating to this topic shall be explored in subsequent posts in this series.