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Trademark‌ ‌a‌ ‌Slogan‌ ‌or‌ ‌Phrase‌

Updated on :  

08 min read.

A company can obtain trademark registration for slogans or phrases used for its products or services when they are distinctive and represent the goods or products’ unique source. The slogans or phrases can be registered as a trademark under the Trademarks Act, 1999 in India. When slogans are registered as a trademark, they get trademark protection under the Act. 

Slogans and phrases are different from brand names or logos. They consist of one or more words that convey the message of a business alongside the brand. They are creative mottos or taglines used for promoting and advertising a brand. 

Slogans or phrases are usually used alongside a leading brand identifier, such as the company name. They will be treated like word marks while processing the trademark registration, and the burden to show that the slogan has acquired distinctiveness is on the applicant. Though they help companies build brand identity, they are rarely considered distinctive enough to be registered as a trademark.

Examples of slogan or phrase as a trademark – Nike’s ‘JUST DO IT’, McDonald’s ‘I’M LOVIN’ IT’, etc.

Conditions for Obtaining Trademark of a Slogan/Phrase

The correct slogan will make the company look more attractive and increase its reputation. However, the following conditions need to be complied with to obtain trademark registration for a slogan or phrase:

  • The identical or similar slogan must not be already registered for the same category of services or goods.
  • The slogans must not be descriptive. When the trademark/slogan is descriptive of the services or products, the registration will be rejected.
  • The slogans have to be distinct. They have to be unique, creative or contain a distinct expression for obtaining registration. 
  • When companies use the slogan for publicity campaigns, they will be provided trademark registration. Most businesses use slogans or phrases in ATL (Above The Line) and BTL (Below The Line) marketing promotions. When companies are interested in using the slogans in their product or service advertising, the Registrar of trademarks will grant trademark registration.
  • The slogan must build the brand of the company. A distinctive slogan or phrase will enhance the company name, make the brand more appealing and help people connect with the company. Such slogans can obtain trademark registration to ensure it is protected.

Criteria for Obtaining Trademark for a Slogan/Phrase

The main criteria for obtaining a trademark for a slogan/phrase is that it must be unique and distinctive. The trademark registration for the slogans/phrases will be rejected in the following cases:

Plain Descriptive Slogans

Slogans/phrases that are descriptive and plain cannot be registered as a trademark. For example, ‘Own Your Vehicle Today’ cannot be trademarked as a slogan for a car company as it describes in simple language the purpose of the business.

Value Statements

Many businesses have vision, value or mission statements like ‘Always Happy To Support Customers’. Such company statements cannot be trademarked as a slogan as they are devoid of any distinctive character.

Motivational Quotes

Motivational quotes or inspiration statements like ‘Go For It’ or ‘Achieve Big’ cannot be trademarked as they are considered to be non distinctive to particular goods or services. Hence, general motivational or inspirational quotes cannot be registered as a trademark. 

Customer Service Statements

Customer service statements are usually general and can be applied to any business. Customer service statements like ‘Customers Come First’ cannot be trademarked as a slogan as they are not distinctive in character and are very general.

Promotional Messages

Promotional messages like ‘Show Your Love With Roses’ cannot be registered as a trademark. Such slogans are commonly used in the gifting industry and are very descriptive and plain. 

Statements About the User

Generally, phrases like ‘World’s Best Brother’ or ‘Apple Of My Eye’ and other statements about a user are printed on cups, clothing, and other memorabilia/souvenirs. Such slogans containing statements about a user cannot be registered as a trademark as they are plain and descriptive.

Trademark Registration for a Slogan/Phrase

Any company intending to register a slogan or phrase associated with their products or services can do so by applying for the trademark registration with the Registrar of Trademarks. The Registrar will examine the application and publish the slogan to be trademarked in the trademarks journal. The Registrar will grant registration when there is no opposition to the application or after passing an order of acceptance after the opposition proceedings conclude.

The trademark registration for the slogan will be valid for ten years. It needs to be renewed every ten years. Also, if the slogan/phrase is not used for more than three years after obtaining trademark registration, it is liable to be removed. 

When a company obtains a trademark registration for a slogan/phrase, they get the exclusive rights to use it for their products or services. They can protect the slogan from infringement and sue for damages when third parties use the slogan for the same products or services.

Case-Laws of Trademark of a Slogan/Phrase 

In the case of ‘PepsiCo Inc. vs Hindustan Coca Cola Ltd. & Anr.’, the Delhi High Court held that slogans could be protected through common law remedy of passing off. In this case, an argument was raised that the phrase ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ was registered as copyright and should be protected. The Delhi High Court held that the phrase is the original work of the appellant and, therefore, the advertising theme of the same is protected. 

In the case of ‘Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. vs Dharmpal Satyapal & Anr’, the Delhi High Court held that the slogan ‘shauq badi cheez hai’ was merely a combination of common words hence not protectable as copyright under literary work.

In the case of ‘Reebok India Company vs Gomzi active’, the Karnataka High Court held that the slogan ‘I am what I am’ was a generic phrase. Thus, it had not acquired a distinctive character with the respondent’s goods and cannot be granted trademark protection. 

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are solely for information purposes. No attorney-client relationship is created when you access or use the site or the materials. The information presented on this site does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

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