Can Sanjay Bajaj be called ‘Hamara Bajaj’?

Bajaj Auto has dragged John Abraham’s production company to court over the title of its upcoming film

Khushboo Narayan, Gouri Shah
Updated5 Apr 2013, 12:42 AM IST
A file photo of a man riding a Bajaj Chetak in Mumbai. Production of the Chetak stopped in 2009 but the tag line has consistently featured in Bajaj&#8217;s corporate campaigns. Photo: Bloomberg<br />
A file photo of a man riding a Bajaj Chetak in Mumbai. Production of the Chetak stopped in 2009 but the tag line has consistently featured in Bajaj&#8217;s corporate campaigns. Photo: Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

Mumbai: Bajaj Auto Ltd, India’s second largest two-wheeler maker, has dragged actor John Abraham’s film production company J.A Entertainment Pvt. Ltd to court over the title of its upcoming movie Hamara Bajaj.

add_main_imageThat’s a reference to the tagline of the advertisement for the Bajaj Chetak and dates back to mid-’80s. Given the once-ubiquitous nature of the scooter, based on the Vespa Sprint, on Indian roads, the Hamara Bajaj tagline entered the national consciousness and became a part of India’s pop culture.

Production of the Chetak stopped in 2009 but the tag line has consistently featured in Bajaj’s corporate campaigns and is identified closely with it.NextMAds

In its lawsuit, Bajaj Auto alleged copyright and trademark infringement by J.A. Entertainment.

Virag Tulzapurkar, a lawyer representing Bajaj Auto, said in court that the use of the tagline Hamara Bajaj by the film production company is illegal.

Rajiv Bajaj, managing director, Bajaj Auto, declined to comment on the matter.

On 2 April, the Bombay high court granted an interim relief to Bajaj Auto and directed the production company not to advertise or release the film till the final court order which is expected on 17 April. The Hindu Business Line reported it on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone’s sentiment and are willing to negotiate with the company. The name (Hamara Bajaj) is central to the plot of the film,” said Shoojit Sarcar, director of the film. “However, if the court rules against us and directs us to the change the name of the film, it will not impact our story.”

Ad guru Alyque Padamsee, who coined the slogan, is well aware of its importance. sixthMAds

“Once Rahul (Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto) told me how he was increasingly being introduced as Hamara Bajaj instead of Rahul Bajaj at public dos,” Padamsee said. “Since the very beginning I have told all my clients that whenever they launch a new ad, they should register the picture and the slogan as a trademark.”

The larger issue, according to him, is the appropriation of a brand name.“The company has spent crores of rupees to make this campaign famous. How can you piggyback on that brand?” he wondered. “When you create a trademark, there is a certain value in the consumer’s mind, there’s an instant connect and recognition. How can you take unfair advantage of someone else’s investment?”

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMD), an online database of information related to films, Hamara Bajaj is the story of a young man called Sanjay Bajaj, a struggling actor. The film follows the challenges faced by Bajaj in his journey from being a struggling actor to becoming a big star.

“We have not used the product of the company in the film and the title of the film refers to the name of the lead character in the film,” said another person who is associated with the film, who declined to be named.

“It’s no accident or coincidence that they have picked a very recognizable line out of public memory,” said Ashish Patil, business and creative head, vice-president, y-films, brand partnerships, talent for Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd. “They should have spoken to the company. It may just be a lost opportunity for both the film and the brand.”

Yash Raj released its first advertiser-funded film, Mere Dad Ki Maruti on 15 March. The hero of the film was a Maruti Suzuki Ertiga car.

The brand name Yash Raj itself was at the receiving end in one instance when the company got to know about a theatre play called Blame it on Yash Raj.

“At first, we weren’t sure what the play was all about. It could have very well lampooned our brand. But they sent us the script, which worked. We had no objection to them using our name. It just helps to have that conversation,” said Patil.

There are conspiracy theories doing the rounds.

According to an official at a film production company, the development was interesting considering that Abraham, producer of the film, is a brand ambassador for India Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd’s.

Bajaj and Yamaha are rivals in the premium motorcycle segment in India.

In any case, Bajaj Auto is not the first company to get into fights over brand names. In 2010, actor and filmmaker Arbaaz Khan’s film Dabangg ran into trouble with Emami Ltd over the mention of one of its products—Zandu Balm—in the film’s item song munni badnaam hui.

Both the parties eventually arrived at an out-of-court settlement, which then ended with the film’s other producer and actor, Malaika Arora Khan, featuring as a brand ambassador for the balm.

For the sequel to the film, Dabangg-2, the filmmaker used Pidilite Industries Ltd’s adhesive brand Fevicol in an item song. According to industry estimates, the company is said to have paid 1 crore for promoting their brand in that film.

Sarcar who is currently shooting another film for J.A. Entertainment is confident that producer Abraham will be able to settle the matter with Bajaj soon.

“The main reason for any company to oppose a film title which carries its name like Hamara Bajaj is that they feel the general public will associate the film with the company or the brand which it owns,” said S. Majumdar, an intellectual property lawyer.

“If the film doesn’t do well at the box-office, it can have a negative impact on the brand value,” he said.

The Mumbai film industry is known for using lyrics of famous songs for movie titles. For instance, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was inspired from a song in the 1974 movie Chor Machaye Shor. Similarly, Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand is possibly derived from a song in Dev Anand’s Kala Bazar. However, when this practice extends to brands owned by companies, producers are finding themselves being dragged into litigation.

khushboo.n@livemint.com

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First Published:5 Apr 2013, 12:42 AM IST
HomeindustrymediaCan Sanjay Bajaj be called &#8216;Hamara Bajaj&#8217;?

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