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Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Financial Times-Times group dispute: What to expect from the Delhi HC decision

The dispute is over the use of the trademark and title Financial Times, a mark the Times group has used in India since the early 1990s as a two-page supplement

New Delhi: On Friday, the Delhi high court will rule on an intellectual property rights (IPR) dispute between British newspaper Financial Times and India’s Times Publishing House Ltd (TBPL), which publishes the Times of India.

The dispute is over the use of the trademark and title Financial Times, a mark the Times group has used in India since the early 1990s as a two-page supplement.

Here’s why today’s ruling will be significant.

What issues are the Delhi high court deciding on?

The Delhi high court is deciding on appeals and cross appeals filed by Financial Times and TBPL against an April 2012 order of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB).

The court will be ruling on two aspects—whether it should remand the case to the IPAB on account of not allowing TBPL to cross examine witnesses (procedural lapses); and the trademark dispute itself. Earlier, the high court was going to simply decide on remanding the case, but in its 18 February order (where it concluded hearing the case), said that “since detailed arguments have been addressed, it is deemed appropriate to pass a reasoned order thereon at this stage only instead of deferring the same to a later date."

What was the IPAB decision in this case?

The IPAB decided the case in April 2012. By that decision, it cancelled the trademark registration of both the companies in India, held in the mark Financial Times, by its order. Both companies filed for trademarks in the late 1980s (Financial Times) and the early 1990s (TBPL). After losing their trademark registrations, the companies appealed before the Delhi high court. In May 2012, the high court stayed the operation of the IPAB order and began hearing the case.

The IPAB, however, found that Financial Times was clearly first in the market.

How long has the dispute gone on for?

In the Delhi high court, the case is being decided after four years. Before that, the dispute was before the IPAB. But that’s just in courts.

By all estimates, this is the 22nd year of the dispute between the two companies, when Financial Times first tried to enter the market. (A look at this 2012 story shows an 18-year long battle)

This was not the only litigation around the longstanding IPR dispute between the two companies. Financial Times has been trying to enter the Indian market for many years now, and approached the Supreme Court last year asking to publish with a disclaimer.

Will the Delhi high court verdict mean closure?

Most likely, no. The high court decision comes from a single-judge bench; justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw will pronounce the decision on Friday. There are at least two appellate courts—a two-judge bench of the high court itself and the Supreme Court—where appeals can be filed by either company if it is unhappy with the decision of justice Endlaw.

Given the long history of the case, appeals seem likely.

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