Subramanian Swamy has a point, Arnab Goswami’s ‘Republic’ could be in trouble

BJP leader and founder of Virat Hindustan Sangam (VHS) Subramanian Swamy is no fan of Arnab Goswami. In a live debate, he once called Arnab a “dumbo” and “liar” who was allegedly attributing false statements to him. He never appeared on Arnab’s flagship show The Newshour after that, insisting that Arnab has to be made to undergo prayashchit (penance) first:

Looks like Arnab didn’t undergo the ‘required’ prayashchit and hence now he is being made to face the shraap (curse) of Swamy.

Earlier today, the former Union Minister revealed on Twitter that he had written a letter to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, informing about a possible violation of rules and laws by Arnab, since the former Times Now editor-in-chief had named his new venture “Republic”:

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The letter is dated January 13, which means Swamy wrote to the ministry barely a month after it became a public knowledge that Arnab’s new venture will be called “Republic” and within a week of its social media debut.

But does the name violate the laws of the land?

It appears that Swamy does have a point, as the Emblems and Names (Prevention of improper use) Act of 1950 (pdf link) forbids use of certain terms ‘for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession’. Such terms are explained and included in the act, and under item 6 of the schedule, the term “Republic” is mentioned (subject to interpretation of the clause):

Screenshot of national emblems act
Part of the Schedule in the Emblems and Names act, 1950.

Apart from the terms mentioned in the Emblems and Names act, the Corporate Affairs Ministry also has a list that forbids some terms while registering name of a private limited company or partnership. “Republic” is explicitly mentioned in that list.

However, the term “Republic” is not contained in the names of the private limited companies that could own this upcoming TV channel. The names of companies where Arnab is a director are ARG Outlier Media Private Limited and SARG Media Holding Private Limited, which seemingly are ‘safe’ and legitimate names.

While the company’s name is safe, what about the channel’s name? Does that violate any act or rule?

Experts believe that the Emblems and Names act will apply to the brand names or trademarks owned by a company too, and Arnab Goswami could be in trouble if Swamy decides to take it to a logical conclusion.

“Section 4 of the Emblems and Names act clearly says that no competent authority shall register a trademark which bears any emblem or name (included in the act). The channel name Republic must have been applied for a trademark, and that can be rejected under this act,” Ajita Patki, a Pune based lawyer specialising in Intellectual Property Rights said.

Therefore, Arnab might face a situation where he fails to secure a trademark for his new channel, which means that he may not be able to stop anyone else from pretending as Republic TV channel. Furthermore, he can invite penalties for using the term for his commercial venture.

“As per the Emblems and Names act, a penalty of just 500 rupees is mentioned, but the act also says that ‘the competent authority may refer the question to the Central Government, and the decision of the Central Government thereon shall be final’. Perhaps that’s why Swamy has written to the central government, though the Registrar of trademarks should have taken that step after receiving such objections,” Ms. Patki said.

But some believe that Arnab could be safe and he can cite the example of NDTV, which stands for New Delhi Television limited.

“If we go by strict interpretation and implementation of the act, even NDTV could appear to violate the item number 7 of the Emblems and Names act. The term ‘New Delhi’ in NDTV’s name could be argued to be suggesting a connection to the state or local authority of New Delhi,” Company Secretary and OpIndia columnist Ashutosh Muglikar argued.

So let’s see if Swamy is going to spoil Arnab’s party or Arnab will be able to save himself from this possible trouble.

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