LexTalk World interviews Ms. Brunda Lavu. Brunda is a Lawyer whose practice focusses on trademarks and copyright. She graduated her BA. LLB (Bachelors of Arts and Law) from Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies, India. Immediately after graduation, she began practiced in the Andhra Pradesh High Court for a year. Thereafter, she pursued her LLM (Masters in Intellectual Property Law) from University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, United States of America. While pursing her LLM, she interned at the Washington Attorney General’s Office under the Assistant Attorney General in the trademark and copyrights department for about a year which gave her diverse exposure and a fresh outlook to the evolving area of IPR as a key asset for the clients. Upon returning to India, Brunda worked independently for two years assisting various start-ups, mid-sized companies on legal matters.
Thereafter, she joined an IP Boutique law firm in Delhi where she worked for about 4 years. Recently, in the year 2020, she set up her own firm namely AtlasIP Legal based out of Gurgaon. She deals with trademark clearance searches, prosecution of trademark applications until the stage of registration of the trademark. She handles all the matters relating to opposition, cancellations and also represents clients before various quasi-judicial and Judicial forums. She further counsels clients on protecting IPR in foreign jurisdictions as well. Over the years, Brunda has developed a niche experience in advising clients on the adoption and protection of brand names and due to her strong knowledge of the finer nuances of trademark laws, she has been considered as a trusted advisor by her clients.
Host: Please brief us about your journey as a Legal professional so far.
Brunda: I always had an aspiration to become a lawyer. I was inspired by my uncle who then was then a senior counsel and now a Supreme Court Judge. So, I adopted the usual course of doing my 5 year law course. I took up my law course from Bangalore Institute of legal studies, Bangalore. During law school, in 1-2 moot court competitions, I happened to have worked on trademark/copyright cases which made me become interested in Intellectual Property Law. Hence, while pursuing law, I had enrolled for a diploma course in Intellectual Property Law from National Law School, Bangalore. That’s where my IP Journey began and I was able to understand the nuances of the IP law to be specific. After graduating from law school, I practiced in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, ie. In Hyderabad for a year under a senior lawyer Mr. Adi Narayana Rao. Thereafter, I decided to pursue my LLM abroad in Intellectual Property Law from Washington School of Law, Seattle. While pursuing my LLM, I interned at the Washington Attorney General’s office in the IP department under the Assistant Attorney General.
I primarily worked on trademark and copy right matters apart from other legal matters. This internship experience enriched my IP knowledge and gave me exposure to the practical side of IP.
When I moved back to India, for two years, I assisted start-up clients on copyright, trademark related matters, advice and all other related agreements that are required for the clients. Thereafter, I wanted to develop a forte and a niche practice in IPR, so I joined an IP boutique firm based out of Delhi where I worked for 4 years primarily on trademark, and copyright. In the meanwhile, I had been approached by few fortune 500 companies in India for assistance on trademark matters, hence I decided to set up my own law firm and that’s how emerged my Law firm AtlasIP Legal based out of Gurgaon. In a short span of time, we were able to gain trust not only of Indian clients but also of clients from other foreign countries across the world.
Host: Tell us about your most memorable case?
Brunda: Last year, at the beginning of pandemic when the courts started functioning virtually, we have obtained a temporary injunction for one of our fortune 500 Company client in a trademark infringement case on the basis that the client’s mark is well-known registered mark. We were able to stop the infringer from continuing to infringe upon our client’s well-known mark. Having successfully obtained an ad-interim injunction so swiftly that too in such unprecedented times is something of a memorable nature.
Host: How do you look at Opposition, Brand Enforcement in 2021 and how it's going to change 5 years down the line?
Brunda: As you are aware, every week, The Indian Trademark Office publishes certain number of applications in its journal which are open for opposition. You would be surprised to know that in 2020 which is a Covid year and still continuing, out of say as an example 2000 trademark applications, on an average atleast 400 applications are being opposed. In this regard, I would say that brand owners are becoming more and more aware regarding brand protection and are opting to file oppositions as a first step to block a mark similar to theirs from proceeding towards registration. In the next five years to come, with more and more awareness among the brand owners, we may likely see a surge in the number of opposition cases. With the complete digitization of the Trademark Process and Procedure, Trademark Office aims to overcome/reduce the huge backlog of pending opposition cases. I expect that the Trademark Registry is likely to provide a faster turnaround time in all new proceedings as well as conclude pending opposition proceedings.
And some of our clients have reported that their trademarks have been infringed the most online in 2020/2021. As more number of businesses go online, there is more scope for infringement online, and hence we at our firm, keep coming up with innovative ways to identify such infringements and tackle them efficiently. Also, the commercial courts especially Delhi, Bombay, Chennai and Kolkata have been proactive in passing swift interim orders in intellectual Property matters which is a sign of relief for the brand owners.
Host: What is your observation with respect to time-lines on trademark registration in India post introduction of Trademark Amendment Rules, 2017
Brunda: As per my observation, Indian Trademark Office has become swifter with respect to trademark registration. In a straight-forward case, when no objections are raised by the Trademark Office, and no oppositions are filed, we can expect registration of a mark in about 5-6 month’s time. Also, show-cause hearings in prosecution cases especially in international cases i.e applications filed through Madrid designating India are being appointed within 8-12 months in order to keep pace with the rest of the countries in the world. Additionally, this year (2021), the hearings are being held through video conferencing method, hence, the trademark applications are also being disposed off accordingly without any pendency.
Host: What are considered as strong trademarks for registration and how best to adopt them for one’s business.
Brunda: This is very basic but a very important step. When a trademark is being adopted by an entity/individual for their business , it is recommended to adopt strong marks that are fanciful, arbitrary or unusual marks in nature. Fanciful marks for example are Kodak for cameras, Google for online services, Rolex for watches, Xerox for copier machines etc. These are invented/coined marks and they don’t carry any meaning to them. They are randomly invented marks which has no correlation to the descriptive nature/characteristics of the goods/services offered under the mark. Hence, they are considered as the strongest form of marks to obtain trademark protection in India. However, it is also equally important and highly recommended to conduct a pre-filing search in that particular classification of goods/services to determine if the proposed mark already exists on the Indian Trademark Office records to eliminate the possibility of adopting an identical/similar mark for the same set of goods/services.
Second category of strong marks are arbitrary marks. These marks although are generic/commonly used terms in nature but when used for goods/services that are totally unrelated to their nature/characteristics, they are considered arbitrary in nature. For example: Apple for computers and Dove for chocolates/soaps are considered as highly strong and distinctive marks.
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