The hospitality industry of India has undoubtedly become an exceedingly crucial service provider across the nation. Due to the increase in tourism, the role of restaurants and hotels has also increased. By establishing a brand name, a service provider in the hospitality industry can benefit from having many customers and build a good reputation. However, there is a risk involved in this scenario – with the brand names of hotels and restaurants becoming popular, other service providers in the industry might misuse this popularity to gain an unfair advantage. Therefore, to protect your business in the hospitality industry, you must seek protection via Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), specifically by registering your hotel or restaurant brand name and logo as trademarks. Here in this article, we shall shed light on the relationship between Trademark Law and the hospitality sector in India.

Relationship between Trademark Law & the Hospitality Industry

A trademark refers to any mark capable of being represented graphically, identifying the products or services of one and distinguishing them from those of others in the market. Hotels and restaurants must get their brand names and logos registered as trademarks for the ease of operating a business in India. Brands and businesses need to identify the Class under which their products or services fall. The same is done through the Nice Classification of Goods and Services, which, in 2010, added Class 43 for restaurants and hotels. Kindly note that a few services can’t be registered for in Class 43, including arranging travel by tourist agencies, rental services for real estate, preservation services for food and drinks, discotheque services, rest and convalescent homes, and boarding services.

If hotels and restaurants wish to have a more extensive and holistic Trademark Protection in place, they can register their proposed trademarks under other trademark Classes. Doing the same shall help them secure the varied services provided by them. Such trademark Classes include:

  • Class 3 – Dealing with cosmetics, essential oils, perfumes, etc.
  • Class 16 – Dealing with stationery material, such as office requisites, letterheads, printed matter, etc.
  • Class 25 – Dealing with headgear, footwear, and clothing.
  • Class 35 – Dealing with office functions, advertising, business administration, and business management.

Trademark for the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

The Indian Hotels Company Limited filed a Trademark Application for the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai and obtained its registration. It was the first ever hotel to get a trademark registered for its building. The trademark is registered in Class 43 for the image and the Tower Wing Exterior of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Internationally as well, similar trademarks have been filed and registered, such as the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Empire State Building in New York.

With the Trademark Registration of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel’s building, the Indian Hotels Company can undoubtedly ensure protection from:

  • Entities that may use the image of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel for commercial purposes without having adequate authorization
  • Entities that may sell products with the image of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which leads to Trademark Infringement

Obtaining trademark protection for the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is essentially stronger than copyright or industrial design protection since they deal with the commercial and aesthetic value of the property, respectively. Registering the architecture of a hotel as a trademark leads to a landmark, which acts as a source indicator and generates more revenue. Furthermore, in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum v. Gentile Production, it has been ruled out that for a building to obtain trademark registration, it must create a distinct commercial impression performing the trademark function of identifying the source to the customers.

Understanding the Concept of Destination Branding through Trademark Protection

The hospitality industry has grown immensely with destination branding, thereby finding its significance in tourism. Destination branding refers to the concept of promoting one specific location or place using a tagline or logo. The same is then safeguarded under trademark law.

It acts as an incentive for the consumers or for them to visit the place and enjoy the experience assured by the promoter. The concept as a whole came to the picture in different states and cities of India and worldwide to promote tourism.

For instance, the ‘Incredible India’ campaign was introduced in 2002 in India to promote and advertise the nation’s rich heritage and culture.  The corresponding logo and wordmark got registered as a trademark (to avoid any misuse or misappropriation) in 2007 under Class 39, which deals with packaging, storage of goods, transport, and travel arrangements.

Kindly note that destination branding fails if there is political instability in a region or incompetent implementation of measures for enhancing tourism.

Trademark Protection for Big Hotel Chains and Restaurants 

In India, big hotel chains and restaurants, like Shangri-La, JW Marriott, Radisson, Hyatt, Oberoi, etc., have realized the importance of safeguarding their products and services through Trademark Rights and registered them under various Classes. It may include boarding facilities, accommodation services, clothing items, shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, stationery items, advertising, etc.

Let us take the example of Radisson Hotels International Inc. It has registered several trademarks, including RADISSON BLU, RADISSON RED, RADISSON INDIVIDUALS, and RADISSON MEETINGS, under Class 43. For accommodation services, reservation services, and award programs for customers, the hotel has registered two trademarks, namely RADISSON and RADISSON GOLD AWARDS, under Class 16. Clothing items, such as jackets, shirts, hats, bathrobes, etc., produced under the name of Radisson, have also been trademarked under Class 25. The hotel’s cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos have been registered in Class 3.

Therefore, hotels and restaurants in India should aim for all-inclusive trademark protection. They must look forward to protecting their distinctiveness, brand name, and reputation from the usage of any fraudulent marks.