Intellectual Property Rights are the creation of Human Intellect. While Intellectual Property Rights can be divided into two broad categories – one is copyright and the other is Industrial Property – which include Trademark, Patent, and Industrial Designs amongst others. The purpose of Intellectual property is to encourage the creativity of the human mind and to ensure that the rightful creator benefits from the fruit of the creativity and to stop other persons from exploiting the rights without the prior permission of the owner. The Trademark Law is created to identify the goods of one person from another person and to stop others from exploiting the trademark and gaining wrongfully from selling the goods by misrepresenting it to the public. In this article, we will discuss “Signatures as Trademark”.
Definition of Trademark:
Article 15(1) of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) defines a Trademark as “any sign, or any combination of signs, capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings, shall be capable of constituting a trademark. Such signs, in particular words including personal names, letters, numerals, figurative elements and combinations of colours as well as any combination of such signs, shall be eligible for registration as trademarks…..”
As per Section 2(1)(zb) of The Trade Marks Act, 1999, “trade mark means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include the shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours, and –
(i) In relation to Chapter XII (other than section 107), a registered trade mark or a mark used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right as proprietor to use the mark; and
(ii) in relation to other provisions of this Act, a mark used or proposed to be used in relation to goods or services for the purpose of indicating or so as to indicate a connection in the course of trade between the goods or services, as the case may be, and some person having the right, either as proprietor or by way of permitted user, to use the mark whether with or without any indication of the identity of that person and includes a certification trade mark or collective mark;”
Essential features of Trademark:
The three essential features of a trade mark are:
- It should be a mark
- It should be capable of being represented graphically
- It should be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others.
So, to get protection under Trademark Law these three features need to be present.
- It should be a mark:
As per Section 2(1)(m) of The Trade Marks Act, 1999 “mark includes a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any combination thereof.”
- Trademarks should be capable of being represented graphically:
A trade mark must be capable of being represented graphically. As per Rule 2(k) “graphical representation” means the representation of a trademark for goods or services represented or capable of being represented in paper form and includes representation in digitised form.
- A trademark must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others:
A trademark must be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from that of others. There must be some distinguishing features in the mark itself to make it distinctive.
Meaning of Signature:
A signature is a handwritten or digital representation of a person’s name, often used as a sign of identity. It is used for various purposes like signing official documents, authorizing transactions, verifying identity, etc.
Signature as Trademark:
A signature can be registered as a trademark with the conditions being it must be distinctive and capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others. Along with the usual procedure, it is important to prove the authenticity of the signature, especially for deceased people and that the signature is distinct. An application for registration of a person’s signature can be made by that person or by his representative. Signatures are considered to be prima facie inherently distinctive marks as the signature is distinctive of the individual who signed. However, a signature that is in non-distinctive such as a font like Times New Roman may not be considered as a signature but will be treated like a personal name or surname. The owner of the signatures can even assign or license his signatures to a third party for commercial use.
Examples of Signature as Trademark:
Some famous examples of Signatures as a trademark are of the signatures of – Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, John Hancock, Taylor Swift, John Lennon, and Kareena Kapoor. Shah Rukh Khan even registered his name initials SRK as Trademark. Philip Morris has registered his signatures under the company name Philip Morris Brands SARL. It is wrong to assume that only celebrities can apply for registration of his/her signature as a trademark. For example, a photographer named Piyush Bedi of Ludhiana, India has applied for registration of his signature as a trademark in class 41 for photography services.
Registering Signatures as a trademark is an effective way of building brand identity. However, just like another mark, the signature has to meet the requirements of a trademark to be registered as a trademark. However, it is necessary to ensure that the signature registered as a trademark is not infringing any others’ Intellectual Property Rights. Not only celebrities any person can register their signature as a trademark. However, for common people, it is usually of no value of registering their signature as a trademark.