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Trademark proprietors can transfer trademarks similarly to how they can transfer physical properties. One of the ways to transfer a trademark is through an assignment. Assignment means transferring rights, interests, titles and benefits from one person to another. Assignment of a trademark means to transfer the owner’s right in a trademark to another person.
The transferring party is called the assignor, and the receiving party is called the assignee. Section 2(1)(b) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 states that assignment means an assignment of a trademark in writing by the act of the concerned parties. Both unregistered and registered trademarks can be assigned with or without the goodwill of the business.
Section 37 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 states that the person registered as proprietor of trademark in the register of trademarks has the power to assign a trademark and receive consideration for such assignment. Thus, a trademark proprietor can assign a trademark to another person.
The different kinds of trademark assignments are as follows:
The trademark proprietor transfers all rights in the trademark to another person, including the right to earn royalties, to further transfer, etc.
For example: X is the proprietor of brand ‘ABC’. X assigns his trademark ‘ABC’ completely through an agreement to Y. After this, X will not have any rights with respect to the brand ‘ABC’.
The trademark proprietor assigns the trademark to another person with respect to only specific services or goods. The transfer of ownership in the trademark is restricted to specific services or products.
For example: X is the proprietor of a brand ‘ABC’ used for sauces and dairy products. X assigns the rights in the brand ‘ABC’ with respect to only dairy products to Y and retains the rights in the brand ‘ABC’ with respect to sauces.
Assignment with Goodwill of Business
The trademark proprietor assigns the rights, entitlements and values associated with a trademark to another person. When the trademark is assigned with goodwill, the assignee can use the trademark for any class of goods or services, including the goods or services which were already in use by the assignor.
For example: X is the proprietor of ‘Sherry’ brand relating to hair products. X assigns the brand ‘Sherry’ to Y with goodwill. Y will be able to use the brand ‘Sherry’ with respect to food products and any other products they manufacture.
Assignment without the Goodwill of Business
The trademark proprietor assigns to the assignee rights and entitlements in a trademark with respect to the products or services that are not in use. The assignor restricts the transfer of the rights in the trademark in the case of assignment without goodwill. The assignor assigns with the condition that the assignee is not entitled to use the trademark relating to the goods or services already in use by the assignor.
For example: X is the proprietor of a brand ‘Sherry’ that he uses for manufacturing and selling bags. X assigns the brand ‘Sherry’ without goodwill to Y. Y will be able to use the brand ‘Sherry’ for any other product other than bags.
The proprietor of a trademark generally assigns it to the assignee through a properly executed trademark assignment agreement. The trademark assignment agreement should be drafted keeping the following points in mind:
The process of assignment of the trademark in India are as follows:
The following documents must be submitted to the registrar of trademark along with form TM-P:
The Trademarks Act, 1999 provides the following restrictions on trademark assignment:
Parallel Use Restriction
The assignor cannot assign a trademark when the assignment results in the creation of exclusive rights in different persons with relation to the same or similar products or services and will likely deceive or cause confusion. Thus, multiple exclusive rights relating to the same/similar products or services in different persons are not allowed. It prevents the parallel use of a trademark by more than one person in relation to the same/similar products or services.
Multiple Territorial Use Restriction
The assignor cannot assign a trademark when the assignment results in the creation of an exclusive right in different persons in various parts of India relating to the same/similar products or services. The assignor cannot assign a trademark when the assignment results in the creation of an exclusive right in different persons in various parts of India relating to the same/similar products or services sold or delivered outside India. Thus, assigning rights in different parts of India relating to the same/similar products or services is not allowed.
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