Bangalore: Nasdaq-listed Compuware Corp., which makes business software and offers IT services, has been operating in India since 2000, and even set up a liaison office here last year. But the company was recently in for a rude shock—it discovered it wasn’t the only Compuware in the country.
The Detroit, Michigan-based firm, which ended the year to March with $1.2 billion (Rs4,716 crore) in revenue, discovered two weeks back that it shares its name with Mumbai-based Compuware (India), a company that offers business software such as payroll processing solutions to customers.
“We have just learnt about the infringement of our trademark and our legal arm at the US office is looking at it to see how best it can be resolved. We have to see if it requires a legal notice or any other mechanism,” said Raaj N. Shinde, vice-president, international operations of Compuware.
Shinde added the company would take all steps to protect its internationally recognized brand. Compuware has not yet written to the Indian firm about the violation.
Infringed: Compuware Corp. vice-president for international operations Raaj N. Shinde.
The founder and head of the Mumbai-based firm, Sunil Merchant, said his firm is not aware of the existence of the US company. “Compuware is a generic name. There are a dozen other companies having the same brand name as Compuware in some form or the other. As long as their (business) domains are different from us, we have no problem with that,” he added.
The problem facing Compuware is one other multinationals have addressed before it.
Mint had reported on 19 February that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was fighting 11 cases in Indian trademark offices to stop the use of names similar to its own. In 2006, it dragged a local dealer for Samsung Electronics Co. to court.
The dealer’s lawyer, Pragyan Sharma, said in February that his client was filing for a settlement and would no longer use the Wal-Mart name. Wal-Mart’s lawyer Sharad Vadehra said at the time that his client had already registered around a hundred trademarks in India.
Legal experts say the Mumbai firm in this case could attract action for infringing a registered trademark of an international company. Compuware has registered its trademark in the US.
Under Indian laws, trademark protection applies to words, names, symbols, or devices that distinguish the owner’s goods from those of others. If the trademark is registered, legal action could be initiated against infringement. In the case of unregistered marks, the only protection is the common law remedy of “passing off”.
In the last instance, it is necessary to prove that the use of trademark by the firm in question is likely to cause injury or damage to the plaintiff’s goodwill, whereas in an infringement suit, the use of the mark by the defendant need not cause any injury to the plaintiff.
Rajesh Vellakkat, CEO of White Forest Law Offices, a law firm, said that under Indian law precedence is given to well-known international trademarks.
“In a case when two companies are registered under a similar name, the registered trademark owner has the right to ask the other company to surrender the use of the trademark.” Vellakkat said.
“The US company can issue a legal notice and file a suit before a district court for prohibitory injunction. In case there is no malafide intention by the violating party, the trademark owner can simply file a civil suit and claim damages,” he added.
Hiten Sundhani, one of Merchant’s partners in the Mumbai-based firm which was founded in 1985 (the American firm was founded in 1973), said the company was “not aware of any trademark violation of Compuware. Our publicity is through word of mouth and we do not engage in any media blitz for branding.”
However, the software packages sold by the company do carry the name Compuware.