New Delhi: Journalist Arnab Goswami’s soon-to-be launched news channel Republic TV on Tuesday rolled out an outdoor marketing campaign with the phrase “the nation still wants to know”, continuing a trademark ownership battle with his former employer Times Group.
Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL) or Times Group runs the English language news channels Times Now and ET Now (both through the Times Network) and publishes The Times of India and The Economic Times newspapers.
In a Twitter post, Republic TV (a part of ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd) tweeted a picture of one of the billboards featuring Goswami and the new phrase on Tuesday morning, a week after The Times Group served Goswami legal notice over efforts to trademark “the nation wants to know”, a phrase he made his own during his time with Times Now.
Goswami, who was president and editor-in-chief of news channels Times Now and ET Now, quit the company on 1 November 2016.
“Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd should put out a poll on their online site and the newspaper, asking the people of India whether they (BCCL) own the phrase ‘the nation wants to know’ and also how many people believe that they coined the phrase. They should publish the results on the front page of the Times of India. That would be the most transparent thing for them to do,” said Goswami, commenting on the trademark issue.
Times Network declined to comment.
Neither company legally owns the phrase. While BCCL had filed for a trademark of the two phrases “nation wants to know” and “the nation wants to know” in December 2016, ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd filed for a trademark for the same phrases in January 2017. Times Group responded with a legal notice.
According to the Section 2 (zb) of The Trademarks Act, 1999, a “trademark 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 shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours”.
A mark can include a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any such combinations.
Legal experts say that it will be difficult for both sides to claim ownership over a phrase which may be used in common parlance. “Under normal circumstances, it is the employer to whom a trademark belongs, even if the employee has coined it. However, ‘the nation wants to know’ is a very descriptive and common phrase. Both the parties here have a very high bar to claim exclusive rights over the phrase,” said Shamnad Basheer, former chair professor of IP law at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and founder of the website SpicyIP.
Goswami’s Republic recently received regulatory approvals from the information and broadcasting ministry and has been aggressively advertising its launch.
Priyanka Mittal contributed to the story.
HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint and Hindustan Times, competes with Times Group publications in some markets.