THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had claimed that the state has got ‘exclusive’ rights to use the acronym ‘KSRTC’, Union Commerce Ministry’s trademark public search report says both Kerala and Karnataka have the right to use the acronym. Legal and trademark experts too said both the states have subsisting registrations for the acronym.
TNIE accessed the trademark public search report by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which clearly mentions that Kerala and Karnataka have the rights to use ‘KSRTC’. Furthermore, the rectifications filed by Kerala SRTC against Karnataka SRTC’s registrations are pending before the IPAB (Intellectual Property Appellate Board) (now the Madras High Court, after abolition of the IPAB) without determination. Consequently, till the determination of the same, there is no bar against the use of the acronym by either of the states.
“It is true that the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks approved Kerala’s claim to use the acronym KSRTC. However, Karnataka also has subsisting registrations, so it can also use the acronym,” said Akshay Ajayakumar, an IP (Intellectual Property) lawyer practicing at the Delhi High Court.
Kerala and Karnataka SRTCs have been fighting over the custody of the acronym for the past seven years. Even now, buses and websites of both RTCs use the same acronym. The dispute arose when Karnataka SRTC issued a legal notice against Kerala SRTC in 2015, demanding them to stop using the same. A legal notice from Karnataka RTC woke Kerala up, prompting it to speed up proceedings to get custody of the trademark.
Kerala began using KSRTC as a brand name in 1963, while Karnataka started using it only in 1973. “In 2019, the Trademarks Registry granted registrations to the acronym KSRTC applied-for by Kerala, considering the state was the prior user. Recently, the firm handling the portfolio forwarded the registration certificates to Kerala SRTC. However, they considered the certificates to be an order allowing the name to be used only by Kerala. There is no such order,” Akshay said.
Formed on April 1, 1965, as a reestablishment of the Travancore State Transport Department (TSTD), Kerala SRTC is one of the oldest operated and managed public transport utilities in the country. Karnataka RTC, too, has a similar legacy, as it started as the Mysore Government Road Transport Department and then became Karnataka Transport Corporation in 1973.
Biju Prabhakar, Kerala SRTC Managing Director told TNIE that he had issued a statement clarifying that Karnataka can also use the acronym KSRTC. “However, Kerala is the prime trademark holder, as we started using it much earlier. Moreover, we have lost many businesses, especially inter-state operations, due to this acronym issue. We will sort this out soon by holding discussions with officials at the secretary level. We no longer want to move legally on the matter,” he said.