Taj Mahal Palace – A benchmark in Image Trademark in India
Recently the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai has acquired an ‘Image Trademark’ under the Trade Mark Act 1999 for its architectural design. This is the first ever building in the country which got an intellectual property rights protection under the Image trademark. The move was motivated to protect the distinctiveness of the building’s legendary image & structure.
With this, 114-year-old Taj Mahal Palace building proudly joins the small group of trademarked buildings like Eiffel Tower, Empire Estate Building and Sydney Opera House Building.
Usually we have heard of logos, brand names, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, the combination of colors, numerals, and even sounds are trademarked however the trademark registration of an architectural design has never been attempted since the Trademark Act came into force in 1999.
Taj’s Unique Construction:
The dome of The Taj Mahal Palace, which stands on the waterfront in South Mumbai, has long been ‘triangulation point’ for the Indian Navy which guides its vessels to the harbour. The distinctive red-tiled Florentine Gothic dome, which crowns the elegant Indo-Saracenic arches and architraves of the hotel, sits 240 feet above the street level. The architects modelled it on the dome of the Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus).
Building’s name or a logo can be trademarked if the associated building’s name or logo is used as part of brand identity. For example, a very popular Los Angeles landmark, the ‘Walt Disney Concert Hall’ image is federally registered and is used on many products like shirts, magnets, and stationery, all of which are used to promote the building’s brand identity. Similarly, one can also trademark the building’s look or Image as long as you are using the building’s look or design as part of its brand identity. The look and design of a building are commonly known as “trade dress,” or the visual appearance or packaging of something that makes it unique from similar items. In the case of trademarking a building, the building’s appearance must be sufficiently visually unique. If one is using a unique building’s name or logo to sell any types of goods or services, he can apply to get it registered trademark. Upon successfully trademarking building’s look or design, the proprietor is able to prevent the unauthorised use of its image for commercial gain.
IP protection for Building Trademark
With IHCL trademarking the building, now commercial users of Taj Mahal Palace’s images have to pay a licensing fee. It will ensure that commercial use of the image of its dome and grand exterior can be made only with the consent of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris. Commercial photographers and filmmakers may need to change their practices, however, tourists and non-commercial users posting to their own websites will not be targeted.
Last but not the least, this has opened a new line for trademark registration on buildings image in India. We hope to see many important landmarks of the country being trademarked & are exclusively used for various unique products & services.