Taj Mahal Palace gets trademarked!

Rajendra Misra

With this, it is the first iconic Indian building to have entered an elite club of distinguished structures around the world...

- Rajendra Misra

The Grand Lady of Apollo Bunder

A city’s skyline is its defining feature – it establishes the urban character, provides an instinctive recall of its landmarks, and creates nostalgia about the city’s travel through time. The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, is the iconic flagship of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris and is one of the crown jewels of the Mumbai skyline. The distinctive redtiled Florentine Gothic dome at the apex of the elegant Indo- Saracenic arches and architraves of the iconic hotel sits 240 feet above the street level. Since December 16, 1903, when the hotel first opened its doors to guests, its striking dome has been the triangulation point for the Indian Navy to guide them in the harbor.

The Taj Mahal Palace was born out of the dream of its pioneering founder Jamshetji Tata to create a grand hotel - one that would make Mumbai count among the greatest cities of the world. The legendary hotel has been a steadfast symbol of the city’s resilience and a benchmark of Indian hospitality. It is an icon symbolic of the indomitable spirit of not just Mumbai but the whole of India.

Setting a first for the industry and the country, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris has now secured image trademark registration for its elegant hotel building and its characteristic dome from the Trademarks Registry of the Government of India. With this unique trademark registration, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, now joins an elite club of distinguished structures around the world, i.e., the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Sydney Opera House, and so on, that have been successful in protecting their Intellectual Property Rights and securing trademark registrations. The trademark is a milestone in the 114-year-long journey of this legendary hotel.

The Law

Section 2(1)(zb) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 defines Trademark as “… a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours.” Thus, anything which can be graphically represented and is capable of distinguishing the goods/services of one person from those of another can be registered as a trademark. The scope of “trademarks”, therefore, is much beyond commonplace brand names and logos. One does not need a signboard on the iconic building to identify that it is The Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Such is its distinctiveness. The hotel represents the best hospitality traditions of The Taj. It is, thus, a perfect example of a “Trademark”, and with this registration, it today rightfully occupies a coveted position among the most iconic buildings of the world.

One does not need a signboard on the iconic building to identify that it is THE TAJ MAHAL PALACE hotel. Such is its distinctiveness. It is, thus, a perfect example of a “Trademark” and, with this registration, it today, rightfully occupies a coveted position, among the most iconic buildings of the world.

The trademark applications were filed in September 2016. The registrations were granted in May 2017. The efforts of the Indian Trademarks Registry and the lawyers, Anand & Anand, in granting/securing the registrations are commendable. They were key players, and together, we created history. A first for the nation, it is truly a historic moment.

Reasons for Registration

So why did we feel the need to register this unique and unconventional trademark? There were several reasons. First, there was a strong desire to protect and underline the distinctiveness of one of the most recognized buildings in India by protecting its intellectual property. One should continuously ask the question “what more can I do to secure the interests of my organization’ and the answer in this case was to protect the image of this iconic building. Needless to mention, the registration has catapulted the hotel into a unique and elite club of a few iconic buildings around the world that have been able to protect their Intellectual Property Rights in such a manner. Till now, no other Indian building had made it to this club. That our own Taj joins this unique and elite club is a matter of pride for all Indians. This unique status of the hotel is also a matter of great pride for its guests who come from around the globe. This unique Intellectual Property protection has become a great talking point for the hotel. These trademark registrations will, of course, also give Taj protection against unauthorized commercial use of the image of The Taj. Commercial use of images of its iconic dome and grand exterior can now be made only upon prior written permission of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris.

Lastly, the registration was also an outcome of an intense desire to create value for the organization. The Legal Department can also create immense value for an organization and need not just be a cost-centre. What is required is out-of-the-box thinking, a creative approach, and a constant lookout as to how value can be created for/added to the organization. The image trademark registration of The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, is a perfect example of how the Legal Department can create value for the organization. So, does this registration mean that tourists cannot photograph The Taj? Not so at all. Such apprehensions are misplaced. Only commercial use of images of the hotel and its dome require prior permission from The Taj. Mumbaikars and tourists to the city can continue to click images in front of their much-loved hotel without feeling constrained in any manner and can continue to take pride in their own Taj and the new heights it has scaled.

Unconventional Trademarks

This is a very unusual and unconventional trademark and the outcome of a pioneering effort. Many organizations register brands and logos as trademarks. However, the scope of “trademark” is much beyond mere brands and logos. Sound, images, color combinations, 3D images, and so on can also be registered as trademarks if they meet the definition of “trademark” under the Indian Trade Marks Act. Such unconventional trademarks can create great value for organizations, representing its USP. And being beyond the conventional, they can become great talking points for organizations. Corporate India should now open up to the possibilities of unconventional trademarks, and explore their full potential.

Numero Uno

Unknown to most, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, preceded the famous Gateway of India by over 20 years. At the crossroads of Indian history, Lord Mountbatten announced India’s independence from the steps of The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. Independent India’s first speech to the industry was made at the hotel in 1947. The only hotel in India to have electricity when it opened its gates, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, has been home to eminent personalities from across the globe over the years, including Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, Beatle John Lenon, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, and former US President Barack Obama, to name a few. The iconic hotel has many firsts to its credit. Mumbai’s first licensed bar, the Harbour Bar, opened at this iconic hotel and still bears the license no. 1. India’s first 24-hour coffee shop, Shamiana, opened at this hotel. India’s first Sichuan restaurant, Golden Dragon, opened here. And now, with this image trademark registration, the iconic hotel has added one more feather to its cap – another first for this much-loved temple of hospitality!

Disclaimer – The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and are purely informative in nature.

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