For those who’ve been following the startup space and the litigations they have been involved in, the curious case of OkTataByeBye wouldn’t be so curious. It happened in 2009 and memories are short these days. Well, court cases over trademarks are still not many in India and its not often you hear companies suing each other for seemingly juvenile reasons.
But when Tata group sued MakeMyTrip(MMT) in 2009, it made waves. This incident was narrated by Dilip Kumar, founder of Inolystat a recent Indian Angels Network event where he was talking about IP strategy. Back then MMT had launched a portal OkTataByeBye — a travel forum that offered hotel reviews, tour advice, holiday ideas and travel reviews by users. TATA sued MMT claiming that ‘Tata’ in OkTataByeBye was very similar to TATA and hence should be discontinued. TATA won the case at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) against MMT and OkTataByeBye had to shut shop.
As a young startup, when you’re not really sure about success yourself, legal aspects of the business may not be top of mind for you. But you would be better off by paying utmost attention to the legalities involved. Another similar case was that of a startup whose name was the same as a product of Amul but in entirely different context. Still, Amul sued the company and tried to shut it down but some amicable arrangement seems to have been reached.
If you think these incidents happens to “that other startup” and cannot affect you, think again. Do refer to international patents site before naming your dream product. Check whether the name has been trademarked (here) and then you can go ahead with your naming procedure. You may or may not choose to file a trademark application yourself, but it’s prudent to be cognizant of the facts.