Global Recognition and Legal Protection of Well-Known Trademarks: A Comparative Analysis between India, USA, and UK

Well-known trademarks are internationally recognized and valued due to their widespread use and intensive marketing. Strong protection is necessary for these well-known companies in order to prevent misuse of their reputation and maintain the exclusivity that has fueled their rise to prominence. Different countries have different legal frameworks pertaining to well-known trademarks, which represent the complex web of procedural intricacies and enforcement mechanisms weaved across every country.


This article explores the multifaceted mechanism by which the United States, the United Kingdom, and India preserve and safeguard intellectual property assets. It highlights the various steps each country has taken to maintain the integrity and uniqueness of these revered businesses, including the criteria for recognition, the complex application procedures, and the calculated enforcement strategies used. The emphasis is primarily on the complex application procedures, analyzing the convoluted routes that brand owners have to go in order to leave their lasting impression on the global market.


Definition and Importance of Well-Known Trademarks:

A well-known trademark is not just any trademark but one that enjoys extensive recognition and reputation among the relevant public due to its prolonged use and promotion. Examples of such trademarks include Google, Bisleri, McDonald’s, KFC, and Coca-Cola. These marks are synonymous with quality, reliability, and a positive consumer experience, leading to increased brand loyalty and consumer trust.


Advantages of Well-Known Trademarks

  1. Enhanced Brand Reputation and Recognition: Being classified as well-known boosts a brand’s reputation. This recognition is crucial in a competitive market.
  2. Protection from Infringement: Owners of well-known trademarks can prevent others from using identical or similar marks, even for different goods or services.
  3. Trust and Loyalty: Well-known trademarks signify quality and reliability, influencing consumer purchasing decisions and fostering brand loyalty.
  4. Litigation and Enforcement Benefits: Owners can file infringement suits and seek permanent injunctions against the use of similar marks across all product and service classes.


International Recognition and Legal Framework

The international legal framework for the protection of well-known trademarks is primarily governed by the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, 1883 (Article 6bis), and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) (Article 16). These provisions ensure that well-known trademarks are protected from unauthorized use and infringement in member countries.


Requisite for Well-Known Status under TRIPs and Paris Convention

The international recognition of well-known trademarks is governed by the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, 1883 (Article 6bis), and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) (Article 16). These provisions are explicitly enforced in India, USA, and UK. Under Article 16 of the TRIPs Agreement, protection criteria are expanded, requiring members to consider whether a trademark is well-known in a relevant sector of the public, It could refer to the country as whole or just the users of particular products. Additionally, the promotion of the mark, rather than just its use, is taken into account. Article 16.3 of the TRIPs Agreement further extends the protection conferred by the Paris Convention by prohibiting third parties from using well-known trademarks on non-similar goods or services. This protection is considered a negative right, ensuring that such use would not suggest a connection between those products and the owner of the well-known mark, thus safeguarding the owner’s interests from potential damage due to unauthorized usage.


Protection of Well-Known Trademarks in India:

India has an extensive legal framework for the protection of well-known trademarks under the Trade Marks Act, 1999. Section 2(1)(zg) defines a “well-known trademark,” and provisions 11(6) to 11(10) elaborate on the criteria and procedures for determining the well-known status.


Requisites for Well-Known Status in India

  • Knowledge and recognition among the relevant sections of the Indian public.
  • Duration, extent, and geographical area of use and promotion.
  • Record of successful enforcement of the trademark.
  • Number of actual and potential consumers and persons involved in distribution.
  • Businesses dealing with the goods and services.


Application Process for Well-Known Status

Under Rule 124[1] Trademark owners can file an application in form TM-M, along with a fee (Note: applicable fee is for one mark only i.e., Rs. 100000) and supporting documents, to request the Registrar to declare a mark as well-known. The application process includes:

  • Submission of a statement of the case with evidence.
  • Public invitation for objections before the mark is declared well-known.
  • Advertisement of the mark in the Trademark Journal upon acceptance.


In Tata SIA Airlines Limited v. Union of India[2] it was held that trademark Rules that deal with the payment of fees for inclusion in the list carefully use the words “request for inclusion of a trademark” and not the “determination” of a trademark. It is mandatory for the applicant to pay the official fee.

Also, In Rolls-Royce PLC and Anr. v. R.R. Motors Pvt. Ltd.[3] The court ruled in favour of Rolls-Royce, preventing the defendant from using ‘R.R.’ in a manner that could deceive consumers and dilute the well-known mark’s distinctive character.

In ITC Limited v. Central Park Estates Private Limited[4] the landmark case, the High Court of Delhi declared ITC’s trademark ‘BUKHARA’ as a well-known mark. The court recognized the mark’s significant goodwill and reputation, both domestically and internationally.


Well-Known Trademarks in the USA:

The USA provides extensive protection for well-known trademarks under the Lanham Act, 1946. The Act includes provisions that protect both registered and unregistered well-known trademarks from unauthorized use and registration.


Criteria for Well-Known Status in the USA:

  • Likelihood of confusion, regardless of whether the senior mark is registered.
  • Protection against dilution and unauthorized use.
  • Protection for marks with reputation and distinctive character.



  • Section 43(a)[5]: Protects against false designation of origin and false descriptions.
  • Section 43(c)[6]: Provides protection against dilution of famous marks.
  • Sections 44(b) and 44(h)[7]: Extend protection to foreign marks under international treaties.


Well-Known Trademarks in the UK:

The UK provides robust protection for well-known trademarks under the Trademarks Act, 1994, which has been amended by the Trade Marks (Amendment) Regulations 2022(SI 2022/1303) came into force on 22 December 2022. The Act aligns with the European Trademark Harmonisation Directive and the Community Trademark Regulation.[8]


Requisites for Well-Known Status in the UK:

  • Reputation of the mark in the UK.
  • Extent of use and promotion.
  • Distinctive character and recognition among the public.


  • Section 10(3)[9]: Protects against infringement for similar or dissimilar products.
  • Section 56: Provides protection for marks with reputation, including those connected to the Paris Convention.[10]


Comparative Analysis:


Legal Frameworks

While the basic principles of protection for well-known trademarks are similar across India, the USA, and the UK, each jurisdiction has unique provisions and processes. India follows a detailed procedural approach involving public objections and advertisements. The USA focuses on the likelihood of confusion and dilution, extending protection to unregistered marks. The UK aligns with European regulations, emphasizing reputation and distinctive character.



Requisites for Recognition:

All three jurisdictions consider factors such as the extent of use, promotion, and public recognition. However, the specific criteria and emphasis may vary. For example, India requires a comprehensive submission of evidence and a public objection process, while the USA focuses more on the likelihood of confusion and dilution.


Enforcement and Litigation:

Enforcement mechanisms in all three jurisdictions provide robust protection against infringement. However, the scope and nature of protection may differ. In India, the Registrar has a proactive role in determining well-known status, while in the USA and the UK, courts often play a significant role in adjudicating disputes.



Preserving the sanctity of globally renowned brands and upholding consumer trust hinges upon the ironclad protection of well-known trademarks. While anchored in international treaties like the Paris Convention and TRIPS, juggernauts like India, United States, and United Kingdom forge their own distinct legal fortresses, tailored to their sovereign domains.

India’s comprehensive procedural citadel, the U.S.’s stalwart focus on combating confusion and dilution, and the U.K.’s harmonious alignment with European standards – these divergent yet formidable processes stand as bulwarks, shielding the world’s most iconic insignias from erosion and infringement.


It’s critical for trademark titans looking to expand into international marketplaces to grasp these subtle nuances. Getting through cross-border mazes requires a deep comprehension of the many frameworks; this is the only reliable way to bestow upon their sacred markings the respect and exclusivity that they are regarded with worldwide.


Knowledge is power in this high-stakes intellectual property battle arena. It is a tactical toolkit that allows brand guardians to triumphantly hoist their ensigns, their iconic symbols imprinted across continents, untouchable and immortal



[1] Rule 124 Trade Mark Rules 2017

[2] WP (C)-IPD; 64/2021

[3] 64(1996) DLT696

[4] 2022/DHC/005190




[8] The Trade Marks (Amendment) Regulations 2022, SI 2022/1303 (UK).





Vidhi Agrawal (Associate) and Pranav Kushwaha (Intern)

Aumirah Insights

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