Religious Symbols as Trademark

Introduction

India being a pluralistic country, there are multiple religions, and everyone has faith in their religion. And the religious sign is an important part of religious culture. The Constitution of India also states that India is a secular country i.e the country does not have one specific religion of its own and its citizens are free to follow the religion of their choice. According to Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India protect and secure the right of the citizens to freely profess, practice, and propagate their religion.
In India, everyone has a right to freedom of religion, and using the symbol and name of religion in the name of business and trade can also be seen majorly. People are so emotionally attached to their concept of religion that it becomes easy for the manufactures to connect their products/services with the same. Now a question arises, can religious symbols as trademark be registered?

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a type of intellectual property consisting of a recognizable sign, design, or expression which differentiates products or services of a particular source from those of others. And trademarks are used not only for business, even it’s used for non-commercial business and goodwill associated with their name, etc.

Also Read: Trademark: Assignment and Licensing 

Trademark as defined under section 2(zb) of The Trade Marks Act, 1999 a mark that is capable of being represented graphically and distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include the shape of goods, their packaging, and combination of colors.” A mark can include a brand, label, name, signature, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colors or any such combinations.

Section 9: Absolute Grounds for Refusal of Registration

Section 9 of The Trade Mark Act, 1999 examines the justification for registering or refusing to register religious symbols as trademarks. According to section 9(2)(b) of The Trade Mark Act, 1999, a mark shall not be registered as a trademark if, it contains or comprises any matter likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of India.
Recently in the case of, Lal Babu Priyadarshi vs. Amritpal Singh, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, clearly declared that no one could claim trademark over gods, goddesses, deities or religious books like Quran, Bible, Guru Granth Sahib, Ramayana, etc. over goods or services. They further mentioned that the names of religious books could not come under the purview of the subject matter of monopoly for any individual. In this case, the plaintiff had applied for trademark registration in the name of Ramayan. about incense sticks and perfumeries under goods and services applied for. The defendant opposed the application, who was the dealer for the sale of products for the defendant, and said that claiming trademark bearing the name of Ramayan could not be registered as it was the name of a religious book and against laws of the act.

Also Read: Law of TradeMark 

In the case of Suo Motu Proceedings vs. Controller General of Patents, Design, and Trademark, the trademark registration of “picture of Attukal Deity” and “Sabarimala of Women” was challenged before the Kerala High Court and appointed Mr. Santosh Mathew as the amicus curiae in the case, referred to the Draft Manual on Trademark Practice and Procedure. He also opined that the name of a deity cannot be monopolized since it is in the public domain and further said that the registration in the name of religion was hit by the provisions of Article 25 of the Constitution secure the right of the citizens to freely to profess, practice and propagate their religion.
Now to come on the point, according to Section 9 of The Trade Mark Act, 1999, and Article 25 of the Constitution of India, everyone has a right to religion but no one can use religious symbols as the trademark for registration. And in our jurisdictions, it is unlawful or illegal to use the religious symbol for registration as trademarks.

After discussion and understanding the basic requirements for registration as trademarks in the name of religious symbols, it is stated that the use of religious symbols as a trademark for registration is prohibited. If someone has used the religious symbol as its trademark then it may create many disputes and it will not be justified for the society and law.