Hilton Loses Trademark Fight in India: Message to US firms get to India NOW

by Brandi Moore on July 21, 2011

For those not following the Hilton battle in India’s courts now is the time to TUNE IN. Hilton just lost the rights to their own trademark in India. The judge based his decision primarily on one thing: how long Hilton had been doing business in India. Unfortunately for India the answer was 2007.

Hilton was fighting, Hilltone Hotel, who sued them for using a “deceptively similar name.” Hilltone won.

In the judge’s statements, according to Live Mint, were very specific:

“I am of the opinion that judgement of the learned trial court is not required to be stayed because, admittedly, Hilltone Hotel is pursuing their business under the registration, which is made prior to the registration of the Hilton,”

In other words, 2007 entrance to India does little to help their case against an entity that has been operating since 1973 in India.

This is very important news for American firms toying with the idea of entering India. To protect marks, entering sooner rather than later is the new precedent. You will not be competing against international trademark standards, but how long your firm has done business in India under that name. Consider the following:

  • Is there already an entity that has a simliar name in India?
  • Is this brand in your industry?
  • Should you create a sperate brand just for India as a subsidiary?

There are many solutions to the path that Hilton found themselves on. Particularly in the hotel business its not clear why Hilton didn’t create a speciality name brand for India….I suspect they had little idea that this was a possibility.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lisa Carver September 13, 2011 at 1:15 am

How would you determine what the names of the companies are in India? Is there a database which would list them? If not, any ideas on how to go about it? Thanks,

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