I’m sure most of us have or at least try to have a signature so unique that you wish is associated solely with you whether you are a celebrity or not. Some of us are also very particular about our signatures and we feel that it defines our personality. I’m sure we’ve all come across articles titled “so what does your signature mean if you draw a horizontal line underneath with two dots below that” and like things. Leaving the personality you are aside, have you come across a signature so similar to yours that you would want to make that person stop signing that way? Maybe.

So other than actually getting into a duel with that person, you can maybe file a trademark application for your signature in India which will grant you exclusive rights thereby implying that you can stop others from using it. Surprisingly, the definition of a “mark” (Section 2(m)) under the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999 includes a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, word, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colours or any combination thereof.

The interpretation of this section could mean that the signature mark may be said to authenticate not a writing but a particular item of product just to assure the customers that it is the product/services of the person he is looking for and not of anyone else.

Most often we see that established designers brand their clothes or jewellery or shoes in such a manner that they have their signatures somewhere on the product and the consumers buy the products only because they know and associate it with the said designer. In such cases, having a simple signature will increase the scope for an unauthorised third party to sell knock-off products by literally signing off your products as theirs. So if signatures are to be really capable of distinguishing they should be written in a distinctive style and should not be readable as a name.

Are signatures as trademarks any good?

Well, in my honest opinion, unless you are self-obsessed or are a celebrity so big who could cash in on the success of being, well a celebrity, then it would make sense for someone to get their signatures registered as a trademark. Also, what has to be kept in mind is that merely writing your name in a non-stylised and non-distinct manner will not get you a registration as it will be rejected on the grounds of not being capable of distinguishing your goods with someone else’s. Moreover, simply writing your name in capitals or in perfect script will also widen the room for infringers to adapt your mark and pass off his/her products as yours and to ride on your reputation. Signatures, like surnames, are such that can acquire distinctiveness and even if it is just a name, it can get registered upon showing proof of usage.

So to sum it up, having a unique signature might get you a trademark registration and having a simple signature might get you a registration if you show that the mark has acquired distinctiveness like in the case of Sachin Tendulkar and Katrina Kaif (the actor) who despite having simple signatures have managed to get their applications either registered or advertised.

This article has been authored by Durga Bhatt, an IP Law practitioner.

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