By Kshitij Malhotra, Partner and Moumita Roy, Associate

A first for the Mumbai skyline and a first for India, the iconic hotel building and the signature dome of The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai acquire an image trademark for its defining structure

The recent changes introduced in trademark law in India are auguring well for the registration of unconventional marks. One of the recent registrations that have made the news is that of Exterior Image of “Taj Mahal Palace and Tower”. With the registration of the opulent palace as a trademark, the trend of Indian trademark has set into a broader direction.

The Taj Mahal Palace is the first monument of India, which has been recognized as a trademarked building. Just to give the historical context, the hotel started working in 1903. At that time it was marked as first ever harbor landmark of the country. The location of the building is an alluring site facing the Gateway of India. The majestic location gives an opportunity to view the beauty of Arabian Sea. The luxury hotel is recognized as the world leader in hospitality and has a rich history of hosting kings, dignitaries and eminent personalities from across the world. Unfortunately, the hotel was also one of the sites of terrorist attack that shook Mumbai in 2008.

Commercially the exterior of the monument is a source indicator distinguishing the famous Taj Mahal Palace. The monument and its red tiled Florentine Gothic dome

which crowns the Indo Saracenic arches and architraves tombs are leading the sky of Mumbai since more than a century and are acting as the “trig point” for the Indian navy. The view is the inseparable identity of the city itself.

Interestingly, the Taj Mahal Hotel is owned by THE INDIAN HOTELS COMPANY LIMITED. Apparently, after completion of its successful 114 years of operation, the hotel owners decided to file a trademark application for the registration of the building as a trademark.

The application for registration was filed by IHC on 13/10/2016, vide its application no 3386351. The application was made in class 43 for services of providing food and drink; temporary accommodation. The mark was applied claiming use since 11/02/1903. The registration certificate no: 1555165 was issued on 17th may, 2017 and the registration is valid till 13/10/2026. Apparently, there is another application with application No: 3387665 dated: 14/10/2016 for Taj Mahal Palace (image) which is still pending.

It will be fair to say that the registration category of Taj Mahal Hotel is more of a Trade Dress. Interestingly, the registration not only will offer protection from unauthorized reproduction of the image of the hotel, but also should bring the applicant the exclusive right to use its extraordinary building design in hotel business. This could mean that architecture of the building cannot be copied by any hotels or restaurants engaged in providing similar services.

Also interestingly, the registration of the mark brings out the apparent shift in mentality of the trademark offices in India towards unconventional marks. Historically, the trademark office has been conservative in registering such unconventional marks. Registration of this mark is a paradigm shift. It should be remembered that the new trademark rules initiated in March of this year has set a procedure for registration of unconventional marks, such as color mark, sound mark, shape of goods marks etc. The registration of this mark would act as a basis for registering many such similar marks and should encourage the trademark applicants to venture into registering valuable IPs in form of such marks lying with them.

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