PIL seeks central probe on ‘Biswa Bangla’ trademark

Kolkata: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Calcutta high court seeking investigation by central agencies into the controversial “Biswa Bangla” trademark, which was created by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for use by the state government but to which her nephew Abhishek Banerjee had staked claim as owner for almost four years.

Mukul Roy, one of the founders of the Trinamool Congress who last year joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had at a rally in Kolkata last November kicked up a controversy over the Biswa Bangla trademark by alleging that the chief minister’s nephew was the real owner of the most identifiable mark of the state government. It is used by all government departments, not just an eponymous enterprise.

Abhishek Banerjee, a youth leader of the Trinamool Congress and a member of the Lok Sabha, had filed for registration of Biswa Bangla with the trademark authorities as its proprietor in November 2013.

Once Roy kicked up a furore over the ownership of the trademark, the state government reacted sharply, claiming immediately that it had taken all necessary steps to make sure there was no infringement of intellectual property rights.

By the time BJP’s Roy spoke about Abhishek Banerjee’s claim to Biswa Bangla, the trademark authorities had advertised his application for registration. But registration had yet not been granted. Within days it came to light that Abhishek Banerjee had withdrawn his application for registration of Biswa Bangla.

The PIL filed in the Calcutta high court, which has not been heard yet, says the state government had spent “huge sums of money” to promote the trademark, despite Abhishek Banerjee claiming it to be his intellectual property. The administration has repeatedly said that the chief minister had designed the Biswa Bangla mark and had given it to the state government under an agreement in 2014.

In the wake of the controversy, Abhishek Banerjee had said in a court filing last November that he had applied for registration of the trademark with the “approval” of the chief minister “to protect (it) from being misused or copied”.

The PIL, which names the chief minister and Abhishek Banerjee as respondents, questions if an attempt was made to build goodwill for a private property, and if the state would have taken any action at all to secure the trademark unless Roy made uncomfortable allegations in public.

The state has still not managed to secure registration of the Biswa Bangla trademark, said Partha Ghosh, legal counsel for the petitioners. “Why then does the state continue to spend on it?” he asked, adding that there surely was “something fraudulent” about the state promoting the trademark and Abhishek Banerjee staking claim as it owner. The state itself had said in a filing with the trademark authorities last September that Abhishek Banerjee had applied for registration of “an identical mark with mala fide and dishonest intention”.

Copies of the PIL have already been sent to the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in Kolkata. It is being treated as a complaint pending instructions from the court, two officials said, asking not to be named.livemint