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New Delhi: India’s trademark office has approved the use of the trademark “Reliance Big Bazar" for some businesses of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-Adag) in a move that will likely trigger a conflict between the Anil Ambani promoted conglomerate and India’s largest publicly traded retailer Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd, which runs a chain of hypermarkets under the Big Bazaar brand name.

To be sure, the trademark granted to R-Adag is different: it spells Bazar with a single “a" while Pantaloon uses two “a"s in spelling Bazaar, defined as a market in the Oxford English Dictionary.

In November 2006, R-Adag’s unit Anil Dhirubhai Ventures Ltd had filed at least six applications to trademark “Reliance Big Bazar" for a variety of businesses including advertising, business management, clothing, footwear, games and toys, education, training, hospitality, beauty care, and medical services. While two have been granted registration, four are being contested by Pantaloon and a Surat-based firm Asim Plast Pvt. Ltd.

“It is quite likely that it (the two trademark applications) went through unopposed," said New Delhi-based trademark attorney Neil Mason referring to the two cases that got approval from the trademark authority.

According to the trademark office’s website, R-Adag has been allowed to register Reliance Big Bazar for “games and playthings, gymnastics and sporting articles, and decoration for Christmas trees," and “clothing, footwear, and headgear".

Pantaloon’s managing director Kishore Biyani said he was not aware of the development and would be able to comment only after he studies it.

Also See Conflict Of Interest (PDF)

Meanwhile, the trademark approval means Pantaloon cannot sue R-Adag for trademark infringement case in the event the company opens stores selling clothing, footwear, headgear, games and playthings among others, under the Reliance Big Bazar brand name, said Mason. “To stop Reliance (R-Adag from using the brand name), they (Pantaloon) have to go to a court," he said.

India’s Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks made R-Adag’s applications public in October 2007. The trademark office accepts objections to any applications within three to four months from the date of making them public. Once the application was made public, Pantaloon acted swiftly and challenged three applications arguing the company has been running its business under the Big Bazaar name for years.

Big Bazaar is one of India’s best known retail brands. The hypermarket chain contributes almost 60% to Pantaloon’s total revenue. Pantaloon reported revenue of at least Rs5,000 crore for the fiscal year ended June 2008 and a net profit of around Rs125 crore.

Launched in October 2001, Pantaloon currently operates at least 100 Big Bazaar hypermarkets in at least 60 cities.

R-Adag uses “Big" as the moniker for its media and entertainment business. Big FM, Big Cinema, Big Music and BigFlix, for instance, are the brand names of its FM radio service, film exhibition, music and movie rental businesses.

An R-Adag spokesperson did not respond to an email asking for comment.

Mint had reported in May Pantaloon’s opposition to R-Adag’s applications. An R-Adag spokesman had then said in an e-mail that Reliance Big Bazar is “one of the many names under consideration by Reliance Big Entertainment for aggregated retailing of our entertainment products and services under one umbrella brand".

According to the trademark authority’s website, Pantaloon has challenged three of R-Adag’s applications and one objection has been filed by Asim Plast. Asim Plast has sought to prevent R-Adag from using the Reliance brand name for leather and materials made from leather such as trunks and travelling bags.

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