Trademarking the name of God? Huh! – Part 2

This post was published on September 04, 2014.


In this continuation post on legal aspects of trademarking god’s name, we shall look into a few cases where Courts have discussed whether or not one can trademark God’s name and therefore have monopoly in using God’s name as an Intellectual Property.

Usually, for a trademark used for a particular brand of goods or services, to be granted, it has to acquire secondary distinctiveness in its respective consumer market, and thus, one can start using the trademark on a date before he applies for its trademark. The trademark may get registered, depending on other legal factors as well as on the fact that it has acquired distinctiveness due to the long use in its respective consumer market.

In Bhole Baba Milk Food Industries Ltd v Parul Food Specialities Pvt. Ltd., decided in 2011 by Delhi High Court, Division Bench of the High Court held that the learned single judge was right in holding that the common word ‘KRISHNA’ has not acquired secondary distinctiveness for Lord KRISHNA, who is a popular Hindu deity most commonly associated with milk and milk products according to Puranas “and this would certainly dilute a proprietary claim projected by any person, in relation to Krishna with dairy products.” Therefore Court held that appellants cannot monopolise the use of Krishna’s name in association with dairy products.

In this case, the Respondent was selling ghee under the mark ‘PARUL’S LORD KRISHNA’ where the word KRISHNA was dominantly written in large font, while the Appellant owned the label KRISHNA with a pictorial reflection of Lord Krishna standing on a Lotus flower for dairy products which was their registered trademark. The Court upheld the judge’s direction to the Respondent to use all three words of its mark PARUL’S LORD KRISHNA in the same font to avoid confusion in the minds of the public about the origin of the said goods.

In another decided case Kewal Krishan Kumar vs Rudi Roller Flour Mills (P) Ltd. by the Delhi High Court, the dispute was over whether or not one can monopolise “Shiv Shakti”. Appellant was trading with the mark “Shakti Bhog” registered since 1982 for selling atta, maida and suji while the respondent applied for registration of mark “Shiv Shakti” with a device of ‘Trishul’ and ‘Damru’. The Court held that”‘Shiv Shakti’ is phonetically miles away from the word ‘Shakti Bhog Atta'”, though ‘Shakti’ is common in both the trademarks is only descriptive for strength and power, while “‘Shiv’ and ‘Bhog’ are completely distinctive features of the two marks and therefore there is no likelihood that any one would confuse with the word ‘Shiv’ with ‘Bhog’.” Also, the Court held that there cannot be a monopoly over the “word ‘Shakti’ which is a descriptive word.”

Other related cases shall be discussed in the next post.