A single judge bench of Justice Jayant Nath had passed the interim order.
BCCL, which owns Times Network as well as The Economic Times, had filed a civil suit in the Delhi High Court in 2017 seeking a permanent injunction against Arnab Goswami’s ARG Outlier Media, the company which runs Republic TV, from using their trademarks ‘News Hour’ and ‘Nation Wants to Know’ or any other derivatives or combinations of these words.
The court found no merit in Republic TV’s argument that the words ‘News Hour’ are generic, widely used and as such Times Group cannot claim a proprietary right.
While granting partial relief to the Times Group, the court said that with respect to the use of the tagline ‘Nation Wants To Know’, a more detailed examination of the issue is required. For now ARG can use the phrase as part of speech on any news channel. However, if ARG wants the term with respect to any good or services then it has to maintain accounts for such usage. Also, the accounts have to be filed in court.
The trademark ‘News Hour’ was registered by the Times Group under the Trade Mark Rules in 2014, and the mark itself has been in use since 2006, when Goswami was anchor and Editor-in-chief at Times Now.
However, the dispute arose after Goswami’s exit from Times Now in 2016, when he launched Republic TV and started taking “undue advantage” of the popularity of the programme he used to anchor at Times Now.
BCCL argued that despite his employment agreement with Times Group vesting all rights and intellectual property exclusively with the company, Goswami proceeded to use the disputed marks.
BCCL had claimed that the tagline, ‘Nation Wants To Know’, was a product of the efforts of the editorial and marketing team during the creative efforts undertaken for and on behalf of the plaintiff (BCCL).
The phrase or tagline was to be used during the debates and discussions conducted during the prime time programme ‘News Hour’. This tagline has acquired “goodwill and distinctiveness” in the eyes of the viewers of the channel, the group had argued.
Times Now had also applied for registration of trademark on this tag line under Classes 38 and 41 in December of 2016 under Trademark Rules, 2002.
Interestingly, ARG Outlier Media had itself applied for registration of terms ‘News Hour’ and ‘Nation Wants To Know’ while claiming at the same time that these terms lack distinctiveness and the issue was objected to by the plaintiff who averred that the defendant cannot be permitted to approbate and reprobate before the courts of law.
Commenting on the tagline, the court said that the date of use of the tagline ‘Nation Wants To Know’ can only be decided appropriately after the parties have filed their evidence.