New Delhi: The Financial Times, engaged in a bitter, 18-year title registration and trademark battle in India with Times Publishing House Ltd, is issuing an advertisement in Thursday’s newspapers to clarify that it has nothing to do with the Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd publication of the same name.
The statement by John Ridding, chief executive officer of the Financial Times, comes in response to a newspaper advertisement carried in the Delhi edition of the Bennett, Coleman-owned Times of India two weeks ago promoting its supplement on business news “customized for Delhi NCR” and also called the Financial Times. That advertisement said the Financial Times was published by Times Publishing House “with Reuters”.
The Pearson Plc-owned Financial Times, among the world’s leading business news and information organizations, was prompted to issue the advertisement because the Times of India ad didn’t carry a disclaimer to the effect that it was “not in arrangement with Financial Times, London”.
“They carry the disclaimer in the supplement but it was missing from this,” said a Pearson executive in India, adding that the masthead font resembled the one used by the British paper.
To be sure, Times Publishing has been printing its Financial Times title since the early 1990s. “We have put out this ad before. I don’t know why people are reacting to it as if it is new,” said Ravi Dhariwal, chief executive officer, publishing, Bennett, Coleman. He refused to elaborate on the issue. Thomson Reuters didn’t respond to Mint’s emailed questions on the firm’s association with the Times of India supplement.
Khozem Merchant, president, Pearson India, said it was important to make a distinction between the supplement published by Times Publishing and Financial Times.
“There should not be any confusion in a reader’s mind. What sets us apart is not only the quality of our journalism but the fact that we are distinguished because of our print, online and award-winning apps,” he said.
The dispute has stalled the British paper’s entry into India.
Pearson, which picked up close to 14% in Business Standard Ltd in 2004, exited the venture in 2008. Prior to that it had a content-sharing relationship with the paper. Currently, the British financial paper has a content-sharing agreement with The Indian Express. The Times group has filed a suit against Express and sought to stop it from using “FT” or “Financial Times” in the paper. The matter is pending in the Bangalore high court. The newspaper’s legal counsel refused to comment as there is no development in the case.
Times Publishing and Pearson have been in a litigation in different courts over the trademark for close to two decades. Although it seemed that the April 2012 order of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) would resolve the issue, as it directed that the trademarks of both the parties be removed from the register and upheld the “FT” trademark for the UK firm, both firms filed writs before the Delhi high court. The court stayed the order and is scheduled to hear the matter in October.
In the last one year, the four-page supplement has been distributed free with the Times of India following a revamp. A person closely associated with the redesign said the supplement is now published for readers in western Uttar Pradesh, Gurgaon, Noida, Bangalore and Pune. It’s either an eight-page publication once a week or a four-page one twice a week. The ad published two weeks ago marked the launch of the paper in some parts of Delhi. There are at least 14 editions and an estimated 200,000 copies are printed.
“It is not a major profit venture, but it is not loss-making either as a lot of local industries advertise in this paper,” said this person on condition of anonymity.
The products of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, compete with those of Bennett, Coleman in some markets.