Updated: Jul 29, 2020

[Authored by Akhil Goyal, a 3rd year BBA LL.B student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna.]


Intellectual Property is the most significant piece of any advanced business. IP makes a sound challenge in the market; thus the producer and brokers build up their items all the more adequately. Trademark is one such intellectual property. A trademark incorporates any word, name, image, or any mix, used, or expected to be used, in business to recognize the products of one producer or dealer from merchandise fabricated or sold by others and to show the wellspring of the products. Trademark is an imprint or image that is fit for recognizing the products or administrations of one from those of others.

Trademark not only prevents a business from unfair competition in the market but also helps in the protection of the goodwill which the business has created and developed with its products and services over a period of time. A trademark remains with the business even after the death of the owner of such trademark. It gets inherited to the family of the owner of trademark.

What is a Family Trademark?

Family trademarks are marks that are utilized by an individual for his family businesses, where the trademark possession lies with every individual from the family. Many trademark suits which are documented concerning family trademarks are generally sibling rivalries who want to cash upon the goodwill the trade name has acquired through years of hard work of their ancestors.

Family trademarks are a gathering of trademarks that have common characteristics recognized by all, something that is distinctive and differentiating, and is utilized with the goal that the purchasing public perceives the regular trademark to demonstrate that the trademark proprietor is the basic root of the merchandise or administrations.

There are a couple of reasons to build up family trademarks. First, each progressive trademark reinforces the first or root brand. Second, each progressive trademark has increasingly prompt acknowledgment and uniqueness. The devouring open will all the more rapidly partner the products with the first brand and the group of trademarks.

Family Trademarks are about reinforcing a specific brand than making an approximately related gathering of trademarks. They can be an incredible method to reinforce and grow a brand if the proprietor understands these marks and their utilization.

Disputes Relating to Family Trademarks

A dispute arises when an inherited trademark gets divided between two or more family members, who do not share the best of relations. In such a situation, each member claims to be the lawful owner of the trademark and hence a conflict arises with respect to the use of trademark by such family members. The primary purpose of a trademark is to safeguard the business from unlawful competition and prevent the uniqueness of goods and services provided. In such a scenario, the question arises whether such distribution of inherited trademark among various members of family will dilute the value of such inherited family trademark.

The courts in numerous cases have reiterated the fact that all family members of the owner of the trademark posses a lawful right to use the inherited trademark and no single heir or family member has an exclusive right to use such inherited trademark unless any to the contrary appears.[1] Such a view has been taken as it assumed a family member does not have a malafide intention to harm or affect the business under the inherited trademark of family or to deceive the people by using such a inherited family trademark.[2]All heirs are the lawful owners of the trademark and no such right for trademark can be claimed by any of the family members against the other.[3] The apex court further held that in such cases, peace and tranquility of the family must be maintained and family arrangement should not be disturbed as far as possible. Family harmony can be restored if the family arrangement is adhered to and respected.[4]

What Constitutes a ‘Family’ ?

The next question that arises in such a situation is what constitutes a family in the cases of inherited family trademark. The court in the case of Kale & Ors. Vs. Deputy Director of Consolidation and Others held that the term “family” has to be understood in a wider sense so as to include within its fold not only close relations or legal heirs but even those persons who may have some sort of antecedent title, a semblance of a claim or even if they have a spes successionis so that the future disputes are sealed for ever and the family instead of fighting claims inter se and wasting time, money and energy on such fruitless or futile litigation is able to devote its attention to more constructive work in the larger interest of the society. Further, Any dispute arising out of an inherited family trademark must be seen as a family dispute rather than a Trademark dispute.


Distribution of Inherited family trademark takes a different route where the family members are rivals of each other, in such cases joint ownership is impermissible and injunction should be granted.[5] The court held that the joint proprietors must use the trademark jointly for the benefit of all. It cannot be used in rivalry and in competition with each other.[6]Hence, in situations regarding distribution of trademark between family members, such trademark is open to use for all the family members but such trademark must not be used as a competition against each other and must be used with a bonafide intention to grab the each and every opportunity created by use of such Trademark.

[1] Narasus's Coffee Company v. Narasu's Roller Floru Mill, O.S.No.291 of 2007. [2] SRF Foundation v Shri Ram Education Trust, (2016) 182 PLR3. [3] Sri Krishna Sweets Pvt. Ltd. vs Mr.M.Murali, CMA No. 2267 of 2017. [4] Rajni Dua & Ors. Vs. Bhushan Kumar & Ors., (1998) VI AD Delhi. [5] M/s.Power Control Applianc & Ors. vs. Sumeet Machines Pvt. Ltd., (1994) 2 SCC 448. [6] Id.

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