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Pharmaceutical Trademark and Its Conflict with Trademark Law

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Last Updated on June 27, 2024 by Swetha LLM

Pharmaceutical trademarks are identical to traditional trademarks, except that they are usually filed for trustworthy pharmaceutical items and services, like healthcare services and products that can save lives. Due to their direct connection to public health issues, pharmaceutical trademarks are especially significant. To uphold the fundamental criteria, trademarks in the pharmaceutical sector rely on the consumer-pharmaceutical firm’s connection.

What is a Pharmaceutical Trademark?

Most registrations for pharmaceutical trademarks are made for respectable pharmaceutical products and services. Pharmaceutical trademarks usually derive their brand names or drug names from the medicine’s therapeutic properties, salt content, or other related medical terms. The next medication from the same company will be labeled as “LIV 1.” For instance, if the liver medication is known as LIV.

Generic components are frequently used in the names of pharmaceutical and medicinal products. Nevertheless, these marks are frequently regarded as weak or non-distinctive since they may be easily connected to the substances that make them up.

Importance of Pharmaceutical Trademark

Pharmaceutical trademarks are essential to public health because they help consumers recognize and select the appropriate products, boosting the standing of pharmaceutical enterprises and guaranteeing superior quality. Medication errors are a serious threat to patient safety, and these trademarks help to mitigate them. When addressing trademark issues involving pharmaceutical products, courts give precedence to the public interest because name-related errors may have fatal or seriously harmful repercussions.

Comprehensive procedures are needed to register a trademark for the pharmaceuticals sector, such as creating a list of possible names, carrying out in-depth trademark clearance searches, keeping an eye out for possible infringements, and finishing the registration process. Additionally, trademarks promote investment in novel therapies and assist in drug safety monitoring, assisting medical practitioners in reducing errors and assisting patients in selecting medications with knowledge.

Advantages of Trademarks for the Pharmaceutical Sector

In the pharmaceutical industry, trademarks offer several advantages, including the following:

  • Permitting Pharmaceutical Companies to Keep an Eye on Their Goods: In light of trademarks, manufacturers will be able to keep an eye on the safety of their current medication. If reports of side effects only included the drug’s common name, they wouldn’t be able to establish whether their medicines were involved without the use of a trademark. If pharmaceutical trademarks could be used to distinguish the manufacturers involved, a potentially expensive probe may be averted.
  • Encouraging Medical Experts to Avoid Medical Errors: Assuring the mark’s originality and uniqueness is the aim of the trademark. Many nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals struggle to remember or spell common names because several generic names for drugs in the same category can be identical. By utilizing distinct trademarks for every pharmaceutical product, medical professionals guarantee that patients receive the appropriate dosage.
  • Permitting Consumers to Select Appropriate Medications: When switching from a beloved branded medication to a generic one, people are usually cautious. Certain customers may display brand loyalty because they receive the assurance that comes with receiving a well-known brand of medication.

The Conflicts Between Indian Trademark Laws

The following are the main concerns that drive the dispute between pharmaceutical trademarks and trademark regulations in India:

  1. Generic and Descriptive Names

Pharmaceutical companies should make sure their names are accessible to competitors, but trademark regulations are overly restrictive when it comes to allowing them to represent descriptive or generic names. Pharmaceutical businesses face difficulties when they attempt to register their trademarks for certain uses. In certain cases, the names are rejected by the regulatory organizations in order to maintain communication clarity.

  1. Anti-Dissection Rule v. Dominant Mark Test

In pharmaceutical trademark law, the dispute between the Anti-dissection rule and the Dominant Mark Test centers on whether to define trademarks completely or just highlight their most distinguishing features. The Delhi High Court’s Anti-dissection rule states that trademarks must be viewed as a whole and not broken down into their component elements. This guarantees the authenticity of the trademark at the moment of sale to customers. To avoid infringement by similar marks, the Dominant Mark Test, on the other hand, places more emphasis on locating and safeguarding a trademark’s most identifiable component.

The uniqueness and risk for confusion of pharmaceutical trademarks are determined by the intersection of these ideas. Though not expressly acknowledged in Sections 15 and 17 of the Trademark Act of 1999, these standards are frequently applied in the practice of law. The persistent difficulty in the pharmaceutical sector in striking a balance between trademark protection and customer clarity is highlighted by the fact that their implementation can occasionally result in arbitrary or subjective choices.

  1. Pharmaceutical and Public Interest

Pharmaceutical businesses frequently add prefixes or suffixes to their product names to make them stand out in the marketplace. Conflicts emerge, though, if these modifications have the potential to mislead customers or harm a rival’s reputation.

For example, the court prohibited the defendant in Mankind Pharma Ltd v. Novakind Bio Science Pvt. Ltd (2021) from using the suffix “Kind” in their products due to the possibility of deceit and harm to the plaintiff’s reputation. Similar to this, the court forbade the use of “GLOTAB” in Sun Pharma Laboratories Ltd. v. Ajanta Pharma Ltd. (2018) because it resembled the plaintiff’s “GLOEYE” prefix.

Suffixes and prefixes have a big impact on how consumers perceive products and make decisions. Trademark rights guarantee registered owners the unique right to utilize distinguishing characteristics in product promotions, so effectively influencing consumer decisions. Conversely, customer confusion resulting from the similarity between these aspects among pharmaceutical trademarks may cause unintentional purchases.

  1. Misleading Trademarks

The public interest can be greatly impacted by pharmaceutical businesses’ use of deceptive trademarks, which can have an effect on both the parties involved and the larger community. Examples of such confusion include the similarities of trademarks GENTAC and ZANTAC, which may cause customers to make the wrong purchases. As seen by the instances when the production of GENTAC was prohibited because of the product’s potential to deceive the public, courts have stepped in to defend consumers. This emphasizes the necessity of strict controls to guarantee pharmaceutical branding transparency and avoid confusion, eventually protecting the welfare of consumers.

Conclusion

Registering a trademark in the pharmaceutical industry involves unique challenges due to the need for distinctiveness and protection against counterfeiting and infringement. Companies start by generating a large list of potential names, which is then refined through comprehensive searches to exclude confusingly similar or culturally inappropriate names.

Kanakkupillai experts facilitate this process, ensuring final pharmaceutical names are globally safe and conflict-free before registration.

FAQs

  1. What is the primary problem with the pharmaceutical industry’s trademark laws?

The trademark law problem is likely to be comparable to the current trademark issue, which could further cause misunderstandings regarding medical errors and have serious negative effects on health.

  1. What does the anti-dissection rule say?

The Anti-Dissection rule further specifies that a trademark must be determined in its entirety rather than in its component pieces.

  1. What do they mean when trademarks are misleading?

The emphasis is on how pharmaceutical corporations use deceptive trademarks, which negatively impact the public’s interest. Not only are the parties to the case affected, but also the broader public.

Swetha LLM

Swetha, LLM, a lawyer with skills in writing legal content, is passionate about simplifying complex legal concepts and engaging readers with her insights of nuanced legal ideas. She is able to preserve the accuracy of legal material while adjusting the tone and style to fit the audience.