One of the important statuses in respect of a trademark, shown in the website of the Trademark Office is “opposed,” for the registration of the said mark becomes dependent on the outcome of the said opposition. The term “opposed” means that a third party, has found the mark objectionable primarily in light of Section 9 or 11 or both (and any other provisions of the Trademarks Act), intimates the same in writing to the Trademark Office and requests for its refusal. Section 21 of the Trademarks Act 1999 clearly elucidates about opposition. Simply put, a mark predominantly gets opposed either owing to its similarity with an existing mark or due to alleged non-distinctiveness or both.

Once the mark gets advertised, it is open to opposition for a period of four months from the date of advertisement, during which any third party can oppose the mark on the grounds mentioned above. It is important to note that any third party wishing to oppose a mark should intimate the same in writing (through what is called a ‘notice of opposition’) to the Trademark Office within the four month period after which the status of the mark is changed from advertised to “opposed.”

If a mark gets opposed and the status of the mark reflects so, the Trademark Office would then send a copy of the written notice of opposition from the third party to the applicant/applicant’s agent. While the status is shown as opposed, all the applicant has to do is wait for the notice of the opposition from the Trademark Office and may meanwhile do all groundwork necessary to contest the opposition. At present, with the digitization and automation initiative, the Trademark Office uploads notices of opposition online and so the applicant can easily have the same downloaded and responded to. Similarly the latest laudable initiative is to allow e-filing of notices of opposition and the counter statements as well.

The opposition phase in general is a lengthy legal process and thus the status of a mark which is opposed, might remain so for many months (even more than a year) together until the matter gets decided in a final hearing before the learned Registrar of the Trademark Office.

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