In a legal battle that Republic Media Network and another media giant Bennett Coleman & Co. that owns the Times Now channel, have been fighting in court for over two years, the Delhi High Court today reportedly refused to grant interim relief to the latter with respect to use of the tagline “nation wants to know”, stating that a detailed examination of the issue is required. This means that Times Now cannot refrain Republic TV from using the tagline, which was popularised by Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami when he worked as editor and news anchor for Times Now.
At the same time, the court barred Republic TV from using the tagline ‘NEWS HOUR’ or any other tag that may be similar to it for its primetime debate show.
#LIVE | ‘We’ve been fighting this battle since 2017. It wasn’t easy. Finally, today we have succeeded,’ says Malvika Trivedi of Phoenix Legal who represented Republic in court, with Arnab & Team Republic now able to use the phrase #NationWantsToKnow https://t.co/rGQJsiKgt2 pic.twitter.com/iOz4geXcBl— Republic (@republic) October 23, 2020
The Single Bench of Justice Jayant Nath has held that Arnab Goswami led Republic TV channel is free to use the said tagline as part of his speech/presentation of any news but in case he chooses to use the same as a trademark, then the channel will have to maintain an account of the usage of the same, stated the court.
The Times group had moved the High Court seeking a permanent injunction against Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV from using the phrases ‘News Hour’ and ‘Nation Wants to Know’ or any other derivatives or combinations of the same.
Times Now alleged that Goswami took “undue advantage” of the popularity of the program he anchored at Times Now. Despite his employment agreement with Times Group vesting all rights to intellectual property exclusively with the plaintiff company, Goswami proceeded to use the disputed marks, the Times Group argued in the High Court.
Meanwhile, Republic argued that the words “News Hour” are generic, widely used and as such Times Group cannot claim a proprietary right on the same.
On the tagline “nation wants to know”, Republic TV submitted in court that the phrase was neither scripted nor planned, but casually used by Arnab Goswami during his time at the Times Group. It argued that it was just a line that happened to be used as part of a common speech by Goswami during his then debate program on Times Now. Over time, this line became synonymous with Arnab Goswami and Times Group cannot claim a proprietary right over it in any way, Republic TV argued.
After the HC refused the plea for an injunction, Malvika Trivedi of Phoenix Legal who represented Republic in court said: “We’ve been fighting this battle since 2017. It wasn’t easy. Finally, today we have succeeded”.
The ‘Nation wants to know’ conundrum
The tussle between Times Group and Republic Network over these taglines begun when Arnab Goswami quit Times Now in 2016 to set up his own media venture- ARG Outlier Media Ltd, of which the Republic Network is a part.
When Goswami was associated with Times Now, the channel had launched a debate programme which was called “New Hour”. This program was hosted by Arnab Goswami.
Bizarre as it may sound, when Arnab Goswami quit Times Now, the media network had sent a legal notice to him in 2017 asking him not to use the phrase, he had actually popularised: ‘The Nation wants to know’ on his news channel Republic TV. Claiming that it had got the trademark “News Hour” registered under Classes 16, 35 and 38 in 2014, Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd also claimed that the tagline is their intellectual property.
Arnab had then released an audio clip on YouTube informing people that he has received this notice. He had not revealed the name of the group that has sent him the notice. “A media group has sent me a six-page letter threatening me with imprisonment if I ever use the phrase ‘Nation wants to know’. They say that they own the phrase.” He had then accused the media group of trying to delay the launch of Republic TV.