“A line from Tom Stoppard’s play, ‘Night and Day’, reads thus, “I’m with you on the free press. It is the newspapers I can’t stand.”
“The two newspapers before us obviously cannot stand each other. Though they nearly came to “marrying” each other in a manner of speaking, they have now fallen apart and are fighting legal battles.”
That’s how the order passed by Justice Prabha Sridevan, Chairmperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), in the battle between Financial Times Ltd (FTL) and Times Publishing House (TPH), reads. TPH is part of Bennett Coleman, publishers of The Times of India, among other publications.
However, it’s not clear from the order who won, and who lost, since the order upholds TPH’s request for cancellation of the Financial Times trade mark standing in FTL’s name, while simultaneously disallowing TPH’s registration of the trade mark.
So what is the bottomline? It means that the final trade mark battle will be decided in various courts, but in the meanwhile TPH’s right to publish Financial Times under the Press and Registration of Books Act (PRB Act), which is separate from the Trade Marks Act, will remain as long as it says that its version of Financial Times has nothing to do with the British newspaper of the same name.
At best, FTL can be happy to register a moral victory against TPH, but TPH has achieved its strategic corporate purpose of keeping Financial Times out of India for many years. Now, even if it loses the final court battle, it will not matter much. For print publications are a losing proposition for most publishers.
TPH currently publishes its Financial Times as a supplement in the National Capital Region and the two-decade-long battle has been primarily over the use of the marks ‘Financial Times’ and ‘FT’.
The TPH paper, which has been published intermittently, has now been required to carry a disclaimer stating that it was “not in arrangement with Financial Times, London”. However, the disclaimer is not being carried in the supplement, which caused FT to release ads stating that “The Financial Times would like to make it clear that the internationally-renowned Financial Times newspaper is not in any way associated with the Indian title of the same name, published by Times Publishing House (TPH), part of Bennett, Coleman & Co.”.
The courts will take up the issue in a hearing in October.
Justice Sridevan uses colourful language in describing the battle between the two. And, on the surface of it, one would think that it is FTL which has come out the winner.The IPAB order has made significant remarks regarding the reputation of Financial Times. It has held that Financial Times Ltd (FTL) is indisputably the first one to adopt the mark ‘Financial Times’ and not only is FTL clearly first in the market, but that in the minds of the Indian readers, Financial Times is associated with FTL. What is equally significant is that the IPAB has held that having known of FTL, TPH cannot dispute its reputation and that adoption by TPH of FTL’s trademark cannot be accepted.
The abovementioned statements are significant for FTL as the IPAB has acknowledged not just its trans-border reputation, but also the fact that in the Indian market, when a reader thinks of the Financial Times newspaper, they think of FTL.
On being asked by Firstpost about FT’s India plans post the IPAB order, Khozem Merchant, president, Pearson India, said, “The FT’s mission is to deliver quality, award-winning news, comment and analysis to the Indian audience. We are channel neutral and reach our platforms through mobile, digital and print platforms as well as via FT conferences. That strategy has not changed.”
Times Publishing House has successfully fended off FT’s India launch for almost two decades through court and IPR battles. Does it make any sense for FT to launch in India, just as digital readership – especially of business news – is growing? “There is a thriving market for print in India and we would like to give our readers the option to use whichever media format suits them,” said Merchant.
It is obviously FTL’s hope that the courts will finally decide to allow them exclusive use of the marks Financial Times and FT in India. As far as the non-print platforms, such as digital and mobile, are concerned, they’re already available to Indian users.
By the time the matter is settled in the courts, will it make any sense to launch a print edition in India?
View the entire judgment below