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IPR and Consumer Protection:
Trademark and Consumers
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The Trade Marks Act,1999 is the governing law for Trade Marks in India. It has been enacted to provide for registration and better protection of trade marks for goods and services and for the prevention of the use of fraudulent marks. According to the Trade Marks Act, the 'trade mark' means 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.

The Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is the 'Registrar of Trade Marks'. It directs and supervises the functioning of the Trade Marks Registry (TMR), which in turn administers the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and the Rules thereunder.

Trademarks are distinctive signs used to differentiate between identical or similar goods and services offered by different producers or services providers. It may be a distinctive word, phrase, logo, Internet domain name, graphic symbol, slogan or other device that is used to identify the source of a product and to distinguish a manufacturer's product from others. Here, the term 'distinctive' means unique enough to help consumers recognise a particular product in the market place.

A service mark is same as a trademark, which promote services and events, not only products. For example, when a business uses its name to market its goods or services in advertising copy or on signs, the name qualifies as a service mark.

Consumers often make their purchasing choices on the basis of recognizable trademarks/ service marks. So, the main thrust of trade mark Act is to ensure that trade marks don't overlap in a manner that causes users/ consumers to become confused about the source of a product. As per the Act, the trade mark shall not be registered if it is of nature so as to deceive public, cause confusion, has identity with or similar to an earlier trade mark, or comprises or contains scandalous or obscene matter, etc.

A trademark essentially serve as a link between the consumer and the manufacturer. It enables the consumer to get closer with the manufacturer. Consumers, today, demand safety and a continuous assurance of quality. In a way, trademark is a specified set of promises from the manufacturer to the consumer. So, a consumer can claim damages if his reasonable expectations are not fulfilled. Further, since the use of trade mark enables the manufacturer to distinguish his product from that of the others, the consumer becomes fully aware of the advantages of using that particular product.

The registration of a trade mark confers upon the owner the exclusive right to use that mark. Thus, it is his responsibility to educate the consumers on the unique features of his product as against products of other manufacturers. The main reason being that there is high level of consumer awareness of the goods and its manufacturer. Now, lots of alternatives are available for almost every product. So, the manufacturer or the owner of trade mark has to come up to the expectations of the consumers to make his Trade Mark acceptable to them.

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