Can you Copyright a Name?

Copyright protection does not extend to slogans, names, logos or short phrases. A copyright primarily protects original literary and artistic works such as books, paintings, screenplays, musical compositions, photography, etc. However, there might be other ways to protect a name.

The protection of copyright is automatic and comes into force when a copyright material is created. These works can also be registered under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 if they meet the specifications under the law.

Specific Condition Under Act Does Not Extend to Names

The Act is very clear that the protection of copyright is only available for works of authorship such as literary and artistic work, cinematograph films, dramatic works, and musical compositions. Due to this, copyright protection does not extend to personal names, business names, and titles of books, other titles used to identify works or products, slogans, and short phrases.

Explanation

The copyright is an intellectual property that is designed to protect creative works of authorship.

The purpose of the Copyright law does not extend to how these works are protected in the marketplace, or at a commercial level. Keeping with the same principle, copyright is not meant to help protect the identity of people, places and things. Further, slogans, names, and phrases rarely meet the level of creativity that warrants copyright protection.

How Can You Protect a Name?

While names and titles cannot be protected under the Copyright law, if they act as the source identifier of a business, its products or services, at a commercial level, they can be protected with a trademark registration. A trademark is basically any word, symbol or device that will act as the source identifier of the goods and services at the marketplace.

Conditions to Trademark a Name

The basic function of a trademark is to distinguish the goods or services of one person from those of another.  

Here are the legal requirements to trademark a name:

  • The name should be capable of being expressed on paper. It should be in text or in the form of typographic art.
  • The name should act as a source identifier and perform a function of a trademark indicating a connection to trade and commerce.
  • It should distinguish the products, services, or other commercial articles of one person from those of others.
  • Should be distinctive and must act as a source identifier with or without the identity of the trademark owner.

Related: Different Types of Trademark in India

Examples

  • Business Name
  • Name of the Products
  • Name of a book, song, artwork
  • Any titles or slogan that helps identify a product or work

Limitations

Sections 9 and Section 11 of the Trademarks Act, give the absolute grounds trademark refusal. The name will be rejected in the following cases. 

  • Names or surnames that do not have a distinctive character. For instance, no one can claim exclusive rights over a name like Singh or Kapoor.
  • Numerical - They cannot be said to have a distinctive character. Therefore, in the case of alphanumeric names, the name should show exclusive character to be a trademark 
  • Geographical locations - These cannot be trademarked because it shows composite character and not a distinctive nature. So you cannot trademark names like Simla or New Delhi
  • Deceitful names - If a similar name or a similar sounding name cannot be trademarked. For instance, Parle-Ji would be deceptively similar to Parle-G
  • Names mentioned under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950
  • Names that are obscene, scandalous or hurtful of religious sentiments
  • Names that are already registered trademarks or unregistered trademarks protected under the general law of passing off.

More: Difference Between Copyright and Trademark

Summary

While you cannot copyright a name, a name can be protected through a trademark registration or under the laws of passing off.

For registering trademarks, India follows the NICE classification of goods and services. According to the NICE classification, the products and services are classified into 45 classes. If you want to trademark a name, it should compulsory fit into any one of the classes.

 

Click Here: Online Copyright Registration