How a 1969 movie helped Kerala win rights over ‘KSRTC’ use

In a legal battle over the name, the Kerala government used an old Malayalam movie as one of the proofs
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Published on Jun 06, 2021 12:35 AM IST
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ByArun Dev, Bengaluru

In a legal battle over the name, the Kerala government used an old Malayalam movie as one of the proofs. A long 7-year-old legal battle between Kerala and Karnataka over who gets to use the acronym KSRTC concluded, claimed the Kerala government. Kerala on Wednesday announced that the Trademarks Registry’s final verdict gave it the right to use the abbreviation KSRTC and Karnataka (which also calls its transport service KSRTC), which can no longer use it.

While appreciating his officials, Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju said that Kerala public transport system has left its mark on our cultural life, including in cinema and literature. “The history of KSRTC in Kerala is intertwined with the lives of the people. It’s not just a vehicle service. Glad the Trademark‌ Registry was able to figure it out and place an order. And congratulations to the officers who worked for this. said yesterday that this was an achievement for KSRTC,” he said.

One of the reasons for him to use cinema in his message was that while making a case was to prove that the Transport Corporation existed in Kerala even before the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation, the state presented a 1969 movie ‘Kannur Deluxe’ starring Prem Nazir as evidence, said a Kerala transport department official.

Kannur Deluxe, released in 1969 and starring Prem Nazir and Sheela, was mainly shot at the Ernakulam stand. Prem Nazir plays the role of the CID who came to investigate the murder on the KSRT bus. The film was shot on a Kannur deluxe bus from Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram as the story revolves around a bus.

Even though Kerala claimed victory, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation Managing Director Shivayogi Kalasad, said that Kerala’s claims are factually incorrect, and Karnataka has not received any notice of the same. He added that since there is no notice, there is no legal prohibition as such against the use of the trademark ‘KSRTC’. “These reports are factually incorrect, as we have not received any such notice or order from the Central Trade Mark Registry as claimed until today. No final orders have also been passed in the said appeals,” he said in the statement.

The legal battle began in 2013 when Karnataka raised a claim over the rights to use the acronym. Once Karnataka had got the certificate to use the KSRTC trademark from the Controller General of Patent and Trademark the same year, it issued a notice to Kerala, asking its government to stop using the acronym.

Kerala challenged this decision in 2015, which resulted in the latest legal victory for Kerala. In Kerala, the erstwhile Travancore State Transport Department was re-established as Kerala State Road Transport Corporation on April 1, 1965. And in Karnataka, the Mysore Government Road Transport Department (MGRTD), started in 1948, became Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation in 1973.

However, according to Karnataka, Kerala’s claim is invalid since it obtained victory through the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB, which has been abolished. “IPAB was abolished by an Ordinance of the Central Government dated 4.04.2021 and all such pending applications will be transferred to the High Court for adjudication,” the Karnataka SRTC department said in a statement.

“So as on date, KSRTC’s registration of the marks continue to be legally in force and the claim of Kerala SRTC in news reports that Karnataka state cannot use the trademarks is factually incorrect and legally untenable. As such, there is no legal prohibition against the use of the trademark ‘KSRTC’ by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation,” said Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who holds charge of transportation.

Further referring to the potential notice from its Kerala counterpart, he said. “If and when such a notice is issued, a suitable reply would be issued. We are currently consulting our lawyers to take effective legal steps to protect our rights.”

He also added that the state will explore all legal options available before giving up on the matter.

Meanwhile, two days after threatening to issue a notice to Karnataka RTC “asking them not to use KSRTC anymore”, Kerala SRTC Managing Director Biju Prabhakar said there were not many issues between the two RTCs over the trademark. He said he had already spoken to Kalasad over the trademark. “Some other issues like domain names would be settled amicably through talks,” said Prabhakar.

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