Multinationals win right to brands even if registered locally, India rules

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NEW DELHI -- India's Supreme Court on August 30 ruled that Whirlpool Corp. has the sole right to use the Whirlpool name in the country purely due to its "transborder reputation."

The judgment, which threw out the claims of New Delhi- based Chinar Trust, recognises for the first time a multinational marketer's common right to use its globally known name even if an Indian company has acquired statutory rights by registering the same name in the country.

The ruling implies that international trademarks are valid in India even if the foreign company has yet to enter the market.

The Chinar Trust, a front company of engineering goods maker Usha Group, had appealed to the Supreme Court when it failed to lift the stay orders imposed by the Delhi High Court for the use of the Whirlpool name for its washing machines.

Whirlpool entered India two years ago and recently launched refrigerators, with plans for a washing machine range in the pipeline. The $8.1 billion U.S. marketer said the Usha group sold washing machines under various names but begun using the Whirlpool brand only two years ago.

The Supreme Court ruling stated that a mere registration of a trademark, in the absence of any honest adoption of the mark or its use, cannot grant a company the right to use the name which is in extensive use over a long period by another company.

The Delhi High Court will now have to deprive the Indian company of the right to use the Whirlpool name. A simultaneous action in the same court is being planned to restore the trademark to Whirlpool.

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