Trademarks are an integral aspect of the intellectual property landscape and hold immense significance for businesses globally. They serve as the embodiment of brand identity and goodwill within the market. Among the various categories of trademarks, the distinction of a “well-known mark” carries a unique prominence. A well-known mark, as its name implies, signifies a mark that enjoys substantial fame and recognition among consumers across a broader geographical domain. In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of well-known trademarks in India, exploring their eligibility criteria, the registration process, and the advantages associated with acquiring such a distinctive trademark status.

Well-known mark defined

Section 2(1)(zg) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 talks about the status of a well-known marks, it says that a well-known mark means “a mark which has become so to the substantial segment of the public which uses such goods or receives such services that the use of such mark in relation to other goods or services would be likely to be taken as indicating a connection in the course of trade or rendering of services between those goods or services and a person using the mark in relation to the first-mentioned goods or services.”

In simple terms, a well-known trademark is one that has gained widespread recognition not just in one specific area but all around the world. It’s a mark that has become so famous through continuous and extensive use that it is strongly associated with the products or services it represents and nothing else leaving no room for confusion for the consumers.

For instance, consider ‘Amazon.’ When we hear the word ‘Amazon’ today, our minds immediately link it to the e-commerce giant, and not to the Amazon River. This level of popularity and clear association with a particular product or service is what determines whether a trademark qualifies as well-known or not.

Eligibility Criteria for Well-Known Marks

Section 11(6) of the Trademarks Act, 1999 outlines the criteria that must be met when evaluating applications for well-known trademarks. These criteria encompass:

  • Public Recognition and Knowledge: The level of recognition and awareness of the trademark among the relevant section of the public, including knowledge obtained in India through promotional efforts.
  • Usage Factors: The duration, extent, and geographical scope of the trademark’s use.
  • Promotion and Marketing Efforts: The duration, extent, and geographical reach of promotional activities related to the trademark, including advertising, publicity, and presentation at fairs or exhibitions relevant to the goods or services associated with the trademark.
  • Registration History: The duration and geographical area of any past trademark registrations or applications under the Trademarks Act, 1999, and the extent to which they reflect the use or recognition of the trademark.
  • Record of Enforcement: The track record of successfully enforcing the rights associated with the trademark, especially considering the extent to which the trademark has been acknowledged as a well-known mark by courts or Registrars in previous cases.

Evolution of Recognition Process 

Before the introduction of Trademark Rules 2017, specifically rule 124 which encompasses the whole new procedure of applying for the registration or seeking the status of Well-known marks in India, the determination of well-known trademarks in India followed a more complex and subjective process. It was determined by the Registrar or the courts during proceedings related to opposition, rectification, or infringement.

Under the old process, the courts considered several factors to determine whether a trademark was well-known, including the extent of advertising and promotion, the duration of use, the geographical reach, and the reputation among consumers. This approach was often criticized for its subjectivity and inconsistency.

However, it is imperative to note that even after the introduction of a separate standardised process well-known trademarks, the courts continue to have the power to decide whether a trademark qualifies as “well-known.”  Additionally, a mark deemed well-known by the court is not obligated to file a separate application for its recognition or validation as clarified by the Delhi High Court in the case of Tata Sia Airlines v. Registrar of Trademarks.

Current Process – Rule 124

Rule 124 explains the process and criteria for determining whether a trademark should be officially recognized as a “well-known” trademark in India. It covers the following key points:

Step 1. Application and Fee: Any person can apply to the Registrar to have their trademark recognized as “well-known.” They must fill out Form TM-M and pay the required fee. The application should include a statement and evidence supporting their claim.

Step 2. Criteria Consideration: The Registrar will assess whether the trademark meets the specific criteria outlined in sections 11(6) to 11(9) of the Trademarks Act, 1999, to qualify as “well-known.”

Step 3. Request for Documents: The Registrar can request additional documents if necessary to make an informed decision.

Step 4. Opposition from public: Before making a final determination, the Registrar may invite the general public to raise objections to recognizing the trademark as “well-known.” Objections can be submitted within thirty days.

Step 5. Publication: If the trademark is indeed recognized as “well-known,” it will be published in the trademark journal, and the Registrar will maintain a list of well-known trademarks.

Benefits of Well-known Trademarks

The well-known status of a trademark in India confers several benefits on its owner:

Enhanced Protection: Well-known trademarks enjoy broader protection under Indian law. They are safeguarded against not only identical or deceptively similar trademarks but also against trademarks used on dissimilar goods or services if it could cause confusion or dilution of the well-known mark’s distinctiveness.

Deterrence against Infringement: The well-known status acts as a deterrent against potential infringers, as it is widely recognized that infringement of a well-known mark can lead to significant legal consequences.

Edge in Trademark Disputes: In trademark disputes, owners of well-known trademarks have a stronger position, as their marks are presumed to have a higher level of distinctiveness and recognition.

Better expansion Opportunities: Well-known trademarks can command higher licensing and franchising fees, as their reputation can be leveraged for greater commercial gain.

Global Recognition: A well-known trademark in India is often recognized as such in other countries, which can facilitate international expansion and protection.


Well-known trademarks in India epitomize brand recognition and legal protection. Achieving this status, outlined by Rule 124 of Trademark Rules, 2017, offers significant benefits. In a trust-centric business world, these trademarks serve as guiding lights for consumers. Recent legal developments further underscore their importance. In summary, well-known trademarks are beacons of excellence in modern branding.

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