After several years of legal battle at the Registrar of Trade Marks, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has won the right to the acronym KSRTC, which is also used by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation.
In 2014, Karnataka SRTC had got the acronym registered with the Trade Marks Registrar and served a notice to Kerala SRTC not to use it. This had triggered protests in Kerala, where the public transport entity is also known as Aanavandi.
Kerala SRTC had approached the Trade Marks Registrar’s office in Chennai, but its petition was stuck as Karnataka SRTC had already got the acronym registered.
Advocate Vizzy George Tokatt, who appeared for Kerala SRTC, said the application was finally accepted on the ground that Kerala SRTC started using the acronym first. He said Kerala SRTC had submitted several documents, including visuals from a 1969 Malayalam film, Kannur Deluxe, shot in a Kerala SRTC deluxe bus plying between Kannur and Thiruvananthapuram.
“Kerala SRTC came into being before Karnataka SRTC. Hence, Kerala SRTC had the first user advantage as per Section 34 of the Trade Marks Act,” Tokatt, who practises in the Kerala High Court, said. “Apart from the acronym, we also got the trade mark registration for Aanavandi, KSRTC emblem and colour designs used by various categories of Kerala SRTC buses.” He said Karnataka SRTC cannot move a petition alleging infringement. “It can continue to use the name,” Tokatt said.
Kerala SRTC also wants use of the domain name reflecting the acronym. At present both KSRTC.com and KSRTC.in are used by Karnataka, while Kerala SRTC uses online.keralartc.com.
Kerala SRTC MD Biju Prabhakar said, “As Karnataka SRTC possesses both domain names, the online traffic goes to them. This is affecting Kerala RTC revenue in inter-state routes. We will inform Karnataka about our stand.”
He clarified that this should not be seen as a battle between two states. “In a federal system, two states need not get into an open fight … the Kerala government and Kerala sRTC wanted to settle the issue amicably,” he said.