KSRTC wars: Karnataka hits back and says Kerala has not won any order

Both state govt-owned corporations of the neighbouring states want exclusive rights to use the acronym- KSRTC.
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It does not seem like the battle between two neighbouring states- Karnataka and Kerala- regarding the usage of the acronym KSRTC for their respective state government-owned bus corporations will end anytime soon. A day after Kerala claimed victory citing an approval by the Controller General of Patents Design and Trademarks (union government authority under Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion), Karnataka has hit back. A statement from Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation Managing Director Shivayogi C Kalasad, says these reports are factually incorrect and they have received no such notice. Karnataka has said that there is no legal prohibition as such against the use of the trademark ‘KSRTC’ by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation.

"These reports are factually incorrect, as we have not received any such notice or order from the Central Trade Mark Registry as claimed until today. No final orders have also been passed in the said appeals," he said in the statement. 

The dispute between the two state-run companies dates back to 2013 when Karnataka had gone to a paralegal body to claim its monopoly over the acronym. Karnataka had got the certificate to use the KSRTC trademark from the Controller General of Patent and Trade mark in 2013. Karnataka then issued a notice to Kerala asking the state to stop using the acronym. In response, Kerala had challenged the award in 2015 at the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB). Kerala has now said that they have been awarded the certificate by the same Controller General. 

To this, Karnataka claims that the award mentioned by Kerala, which they are unaware of, anyway has no legal validity. According to Karnataka, such an award is possible only through the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) and it has been abolished by the union government through a recent ordinance. “IPAB was abolished by an Ordinance of the Central Government dated 4.04.2021 and all such pending applications will be transferred to the High Court for adjudication,” the Karnataka SRTC MD said in a statement.

At present both the companies use the KSRTC acronym. While Karnataka corporation uses Gandaberunda icon (two-headed mythical bird) as its logo, Kerala RTC uses a logo of two elephants.

On June 3, it was also widely reported that Kerala SRTC Chairman and Managing Director Biju Prabhakar will issue a notice to stop their rivals from using 'KSRTC'. Shivayogi C Kalasad, meanwhile says Kerala’s approval has no validity. 

“So as on date, KSRTC’s registration of the marks continue to be legally in force and the claim of Kerala SRTC in news-reports that Karnataka state cannot use the trademarks is factually incorrect and legally untenable,” he told reporters. He added, “As such, there is no legal prohibition against the use of the trademark ‘KSRTC’ by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation.”

Further referring to the potential notice from its Kerala counterpart, he said. “If and when such a notice is issued, a suitable reply would be issued. We are currently consulting our lawyers to take effective legal steps to protect our rights.”

Earlier on Thursday itself Karnataka Deputy CM and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi had said they will explore all legal options available before giving up on the matter. He also spoke of how Kerala was engaging in a useless battle against a fellow state when unlike private companies the state-run corporations run in the interest of the public alone.

He said the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was abolished by an ordinance of the central government dated April 4 and all such pending applications will be transferred to the High Courts for adjudication.

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