Mamata kin withdraws claim on ‘Biswa Bangla’ trademark

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Kolkata: The West Bengal government has persuaded Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of the state’s chief minister, to withdraw his claim on the ‘Biswa Bangla’ trademark, days after Mukul Roy, once second in command in the Trinamool Congress party, kicked up a controversy over its ownership.

The state sells handcrafted products through Biswa Bangla stores.

Roy, who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, had alleged on Friday that the chief minister’s nephew had secured the Biswa Bangla trademark as its proprietor. Under instructions from the chief minister, government officials went into an overdrive to dismiss Roy’s claims and set things right.

It ended with Abhishek Banerjee, a member of the Lok Sabha, writing to the trademark authorities that he was withdrawing his claim. His letter dated 2 November, in which he says he was giving it up, was received by the Trademarks Registry in Kolkata only on Monday, show official records.

Abhishek Banerjee, who staked claim to Biswa Bangla in November 2013, could not be immediately reached for comments. His lawyer Sanjay Basu declined to comment.

Abhishek Banerjee had made several applications claiming ownership of the Biswa Bangla trademark. Because of competing claims, the state’s own applications remained unsuccessful. Even so, it continued to be used by the state government and emerged to be the “representative mark” of West Bengal, as described by home secretary Atri Bhattacharya in a press briefing on Saturday.

Acknowledging that such a mark should be exclusively owned by the state government, Bhattacharya on Friday said legal action had been initiated against an “attempted infringement”. On Saturday, he and the principal secretary of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) department, Rajiva Sinha, claimed Abhishek Banerjee had withdrawn his applications seeking registration of the trademark.

Abhishek Banerjee was ahead of the MSME department’s application for registration of the Biswa Bangla trademark. One of his applications was accepted and advertised by the trademark authorities in their official journal on 8 May, giving opportunity to anyone interested in the trademark to file objections within four months.

On 8 September—the last day for filing objections—West Bengal State Export Promotion Society, an arm of Sinha’s MSME department, filed a petition opposing Abhishek Banerjee’s application.

The society’s own applications have so far remained unsuccessful because of the competing claims to the mark, which according to the home secretary was designed by the chief minister herself and given to the state government under an agreement dating back to 2014.

In its petition, the state government said the mark was being “extensively” used by it from September 2013, and that it has spent “huge sums of money” to promote it. The state claimed its investments had led to “exponential growth of (the mark’s) reputation and goodwill”, and went on to allege malfeasance. It said the applicant (Abhishek Banerjee) was seeking registration of an “identical mark with mala fide and dishonest intention”.

“The controversy was the game changer,” said an adviser to the state government, who is briefed on the matter. Before leaving for London, the chief minister had made it clear to government officials that they should put an end to the controversy, this person said, asking not to be named.

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