Can Tagline be Registered as Trademark?


Can Tagline be Registered as TrademarkWhen you talk about a brand, there are many identifiers that may rush to your mind- registered trademark of the brand that may include a the word mark or a symbol, the jingle of the brand and most importantly the tagline. It’s hard to let the tagline go unnoticed and sometimes people become more familiar with these as compared to the brand name itself. This is because taglines are catchphrases that help to paint a particular picture of the brand in your mind. For example when L’oreal says ‘because you’re worth it’, it instantly connects you with the message of celebrating women’s beauty.  And Amul’s, ‘the taste of India’ tagline reminds you of Amul’s indigenous products. Tagline indeed leaves an impact. However, the question that arises here is, ‘are these phrases protectable through trademark registration or are just simple marketing tools?’ Let’s address some of the doubts about taglines below.

Is it possible to Register a Trademark for Taglines or Slogans?

Trademarks protect a business by safeguarding a company’s reputation from misuse or exploitation by competitors in the market. Trademark registration doesn’t prevent any future use of a word or phrase but strictly prevents its use or the use of any similar phrase other entities in the market. So along with logo or company name, it sometimes becomes important to protect taglines as well. The following standard criterion for trademark registration need to be fulfilled:

  • First and foremost the tagline must be distinctive. It must be clever, short and catchy. A distinctive tagline is easier to register as a trademark. Apart from inherent distinctiveness, distinct character comes through long standing use.
  • Same or similar slogan must not have been registered already for same or similar group of services.
  • Slogan or tagline must not be too ‘descriptive’.

Why should you consider registering a Trademark for your Tagline?

Taglines establish a powerful emotional connect with your customers. Whether it’s Mc Donald’s ‘I’m lovin it’ or ‘Taste the Thunder’ by Thumsup, taglines act as a glue that holds a brand together. It can help to fill up the information gap that rest of the marketing may not be able to cover. They become a memorable part of your brand identity. So when popular cricketers said  ‘Boost is the secret of our energy’, kids strongly believed so while they happily drank their milk with Boost as a supplement in it . This is the power of a slogan.

Taglines acquire a value over time and play a critical role in a company’s success. Hence, protecting your tagline through trademark becomes an important aspect in your brand building process. The Trademark Act of India recognizes tagline or a slogan under Section 2(m) as a collection of words and is eligible for  trade mark under registration under Section 2(zb).

Legal protection of slogans and taglines:

Since taglines hold high importance for brands, they have been a matter of legal disputes time and again. In the case of Procter & Gamble Manufacturing (Tianjin) Co. Ltd. versus Anchor Health & Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd concerning the slogan ‘All Round Protection’, the Delhi High Court upheld the validity and protection given to the slogan belonging to Anchor. It further held that Anchor was the first brand to use the tagline. This tagline is recognizable by Anchor’s customers in India.

In another case Stokely Van Camp Inc. versus Heinz India Pvt Ltd. the Delhi High Court Division bench held that Gatorade’s registered  trade slogan ‘Rehydrate Replenish Refuel’ is not eligible for protection since it has become ‘customary’. Such words have become necessary to describe the products in the concerned sector. Hence, the Court held that Heinz use of the expression ‘Rehydrates fluids, Replenishes vital salts, Recharges glucose’ would fall within the ambit of Section 30 (2)(a) of the Trademarks Act. The use of the said expression doesn’t amount to infringement.

Brand Taglines as Copyrights:

Copyright offers protection to ‘original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematographic films and sound recordings.’ Considering the case of Pepsi Co. Inc. versus Hindustan Coca Cola and Ors. The Delhi High Court held that advertising slogans are not to be accorded protection under the Copyright Act. They are protected under the law of passing off. The Court remarked that even though the task of devising advertising slogans requires skill and judgment, they usually do not qualify as original literary works. Also in Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. versus Dharampal Satyapal Ltd. the Delhi High Court reasserted its previous ruling in Pepsi Co. case and held that the advertising slogan ‘Shauq Badi Cheez Hai’ is a mere combination of common words and hence could not  be granted protection as a literary or artistic work under the Copyright Act. Thus generally copyright is not a good mode of protection for generic taglines due to the usage of commonly used words or expressions in them which makes them lack in originality.

So, a securing your distinct tagline becomes an important aspect for your business. Seeking trademark protection for the same is a good way to secure and project your brand image.

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