PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A first-generation newspaper promoter launches a newspaper with his first name as part of the title. After a few years, he sells the now well-established newspaper to a well-established newspaper group. The new owners (neither of whom share the original promoter’s surname) continue to publish the newspaper in its original name.
Now, if the original promoter buys up the title of another existing newspaper, which coincidentally also has his first name as part of its title, and decides to compete with his first newspaper in the same markets, is he banking on the saleability of his name—or indulging in trademark infringement?
Well, that’s the sum and substance of a controversy that has broken out in Bangalore between The Times of India group of Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, and VRL Media owned by the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar.
Thirteen years ago, Sankeshwar lauched the multi-edition Vijaya Karnataka, which soon became market leader. In 2006, he sold the daily and associated properties to The Times of India group. After the lapse of the five-year no-compete clause, Sankeshwar announced plans to launch a new daily.
He zeroed in on the title Vijaya Vani for his new project.
But The Times group is not amused. In fact, it has apparently issued a legal notice to VRL Media and the matter has landed in the courts in Bangalore. The Times group’s legal notice comes on the eve of Vijaya Vani‘s promise launch on Sunday, April 1.
Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of Vijaya Karnataka who now edits Kannada Prabha, points out on his blog:
“If the use of a name like “Vijay” is the cause of the strife, surely Samyukta Karnataka could have objected whenVijaya Karnataka was launched because the word Karnataka was in it? And surely, Praja Vani and Udaya Vani too could take objection to the title Vijaya Vani because the word Vani is in it?”
That’s problem no.1 in The Times argument. Problem no.2 is Vijaya Vani is a title that had been peacefully coming out for a small town called Tumkur, on the outskirts of Bangalore, till Vijaya Sankeshwar purchased it. So, if ToI had no problem with that title for six years, why does it have one now?
Problem no. 3: those who have seen dummy editions of the new (relaunched?) Vijaya Vani say it will have a picture of the owner, Vijay Sankeshwar, alongside the masthead for a few months. Can either the courts or the registrar of newspapers deny a owner to name a paper after himself?
And who has forgotten the launch of Financial Times by The Times group 20 yers ago that has stymied the launch of the original FT for the last 20 years?