Friday, May 23, 2008

Trademark Battle: Biyani v. Ambani [India]

India’s big guns are having a bazaar battle.

Kishore Biyani, one of the biggest names in domestic retail, has locked horns with one of India’s richest men, Anil Ambani, over a small name with big stakes: Big Bazar.

Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has filed to register Reliance Big Bazar with India’s trademark authority. The application says it claims “no right” to “exclusive use of word ‘Big Bazar’”, which means the company will only use the name as Reliance Big Bazar, according to the document filed.

Meanwhile, Biyani’s flagship hypermarkets are called Big Bazaar, with a double “a”, spelling it the way Oxford English Dictionary spells the word to define a market.

Still, Biyani says he considers the younger Ambani’s move as an attempt to misappropriate a brand he has nurtured for years into one of India’s best known retail names.

There are 89 Big Bazaars in India and the format is the highest revenue and profit generating unit for the Future Group that Biyani founded. Biyani has plans to hive off Big Bazaar and may eventually take it public after doubling the number of stores by March 2009.

“They are using a name which was created by us,” says Biyani, managing director of Pantaloon Retail. Therefore, “we are opposing” it.

The Anil Ambani-led wing of the former Reliance group, on the other hand, uses ‘Big’ as the moniker for its entertainment and media channels ranging from Big FM, India’s largest radio network, to Big Video, Big Music, Big Flicks under Reliance Big Entertainment Pvt Ltd.

Big Bazar is “one of the many names under consideration by Reliance Big Entertainment for aggregated retailing of our entertainment products and services under one umbrella brand” says a spokesperson for Reliance.

Reliance Adag applied in November 2006 for trademark registration of the name under two separate categories of trademark registration: class 28 that covers trademark in games and playthings, gymnastics and sporting articles and class 35 that deals in advertising, business management, business administration and office functions.

The registrations, carried under the company’s unit Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Ventures Pvt. Ltd, was made public by the country’s controller general of patents, designs and trademark in November, allowing for any opposition to file their objections.

Companies opposing trademark applications are supposed to mark their objections in three to four months’ time from the date it was madepublic.
“We have filed oppositions for both (the cases),” Biyani said.
Local and foreign retailers from McDonald’s Corp. to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have been involved in alleged trademarks infringement cases in India as local individualsand firms have trademarked names such as 7 Eleven and Burger King.

However, it is unusual for two Indian corporate giants to get into a fight over such major brand name.

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