McDonald's in a soup with trademark suit

By Sonora Jha Namblar

The Times of India

Press Index

Bangalore: In acase that will be a trendsetter for the much-debated copyrights and patents issue in India ; a small Bangalore based enterprise has taken on multinational McDonald's in a logo war that is embarrassing the latter's expansion plans in India. With McDonald's recently advertising in Bangalore dailies for partners to bring the restaurant to the Garden City, the sanitary ware firm, P.C. Malappa & Co., is digging its heels in.

His lawyers launched a counter-attack by publishing warning notice advertisements saying, "our client has received information that certain persons are imitating our client's trademark and copyright. Firm legal action both civil and criminal will be taken against them if they fail to desist from using the same immedintely. Information regarding violation will be suitably rewarded".

The bone of contention is the letter 'M'. While the famed golden arch its recognised as the logo of the fast food 'Gulliver' McDonald's, 'Lilliput' P.C. Malappa & Co. states that as far as registration of the logo in India is concerned, "we got here first." According to its legal representative, advocate V. Veeraraghavan, this firm started operations in Bangalore In April 1990, long before McDonald's announced plans to come to India.

The advcocate's spokesperson Rashmi Misquith told The Times of India, "McDonald's hauled Malappa to court in 1993 when they came to India. We filed a counter-suit in a Delhi court. Our.stand was that apart from registering the copyright here first, there is no earthly similarity between the goods sold by the two companies. So far, no American or other tourists who come to Indla every year have made any mistake in thinking that our client's business has any connection with McDonald's fast food."

Malappa's contention also is that while across the world McDonald's has used the 'M' with McDonald's written below it, in India, it wants to use the 'M' alone, which clashes with the way Malappa uses It. There are also several other design differences, says Ms Misquith. These factors prompted Malappa & Co. to move the Delhi high court with an amendment to the original suit - it now wants the McDonald's Indian logo the single 'M' be cancelled. McDonald's, meanwhile, has maintained a stiff upper lip on the issue, stating that they have absolute rights to the logo. The courts are expected to decide on February 4, 1997.

While the case has once again raked up the debate over the supremacy of multinationals and the subsequent gobbling up of small Indian firms, proprietor P. C. Malappa maintains that he has nothing to do with the larger issues involved. "I have nothing against multinationals entering India. For me, it's a personal battle. When I asked my designer to give me a logo in 1990, he came up with this. I had never been abroad and never heard of McDonald's. Even now, I don't see what the fuss is all about. They make fast-food. We make tiles," he shrugs.

If the battle gets too hot, wouldn't it be simpler to get another logo for himself? "I am a small businessman and McDonald's is an international giant. I'm nothing in front of them. But there's no going back now."

See also:
  • McDonald's Plans India Debut Soon
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