As a general rule, the ownership of a trademark vests in the person who puts the mark on the product. Thus where a manufacturer puts a mark on a product it manufactures, the presumption of proprietorship of the trademark is in its favour.
A distributor or importer of the product cannot claim ownership or goodwill in that trademark. Mere use of the expression “imported by” or “marketed by” in advertisements created by the importer or distributor cannot displace the presumption that the ownership and goodwill of the brand vests in the manufacturer of the product.
Relevant considerations in this regard would be:
(i) who invented the trademark;
(ii) who first affixed it to the product;
(iii) who maintains the quality of the product;
(iv) with whom does the relevant public identify the goods;
(v) to whom does the relevant public look for warranty and redressal of complaints; and
(vi) who possesses the goodwill associated with the product.
Manisha Singh Nair is a partner at Lex Orbis, an intellectual property practice law firm headquartered in New Delhi
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