History of Indian Trademark Law

Indian Trademark Law evolution over the years

The existence of trademark traces back to the ancient civilizations of the ancient Indian period including ancient Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilizations (around 3500-2500BC) and many more. Also, traces were found in the Indus Valley civilization. The Sumerian traders of Indus merchants used to stamp their properties with seals. It had been found that more than 2000 seals of the trader’s in the Indus cities & Mesopotamia were left by the overseas traders. Other evidence of trademark is from the seals used by the Sindhu merchants as the trademark by impressing them on clay tags to label their goods.

India’s statutory Trademark Law enacted in 1860. However, the first trademark Act enacted in 1879 when the Bombay mill owners and Bombay Chamber of Commerce went to the State of Bombay to have a law for protecting the trademark in 1877. Thereafter, this matter referred to the Government of India. The Act was withdrawn in 1880 and there was no other Act enacted before 1940 for the trademark protection. Thus, during this period, many problems related to infringement and other related issues arose.  The infringement and issue resolved by section 54 of the specific relief Act of 1877, handled and solved such issues. A declaration as to the ownership of the trademark provided as registration under the Indian Registration Act 1908.

The Indian Trademarks Act passed in 1940 to resolve all the problems related to the trademark, based on the English Trademarks Act. Due to a tremendous increasing growth in Trade and Commerce, the need for strict protection of Trademarks existed. In the years after the Indian Trademarks Act 1940, many amendments in the Act took place. Later, the Trademark and Merchandise Act of 1958 passed which completely replaced the Indian Trademarks Act, 1940. The aims of the Trademark and Merchandise Act of 1958 were as follows:

Safeguard and prohibit the use of a mark by the other party on the merchandise.

Facilitate registration of the trademark to give legal right to the owner for exclusive use of the trademark.

Prevent fraud in case of Trademark infringement.


In the year 1999, the Trademark Act enacted which replaced the Trademark and Merchandise Act of 1958. The Trademark Act of 1999 based on the recommendation by the World Trade Organization to comply with the TRIPS obligation. The goals of the Trademark Act of 1999 were:

Grant the protection to the user of the trademark on his goods and recommend conditions on the acquisition, and legal solution for imposing trademark rights.

Impart protection of service marks and provision of registration of collective marks.

The provision related to arrest when infringement of the Trademark.


In addition, the Act of 1999 increase period of registration, raised punishment, gave detailed definitions unlike the earlier acts and provides a process for registration of non-traditional trademarks. The Trademarks Act of 1999 came into effect on 15th September 2003. Recently, the Trademarks Rules of 2017 came into force which repealed the Trademark Rules of 2002.  The silent features of the Trademarks rules, 2017 are:

The decrease in the number of forms used for Trademarks.

Concessions provided to Start-Ups, Individuals and Small Enterprises.

Procedure for determining “Well Known Mark” has been established.

Representation of Sound marks.

Permit the video conferencing for hearing.


Nowadays, the Trademark Act of 1999 and the Trademark Rules of 2017 govern the trademark law in India. The Trademark Act, 1999 read along with the Trademark Rules of 2017. India is a signatory country of many international treaties and conventions that lays rules for governing trademark laws.

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