Realty companies wake up to brand value, challenge infringement 


Real estate developers in India have started challenging possible infringement of their brand names established over the years, joining their counterparts in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and consumer goods that are known to make serious efforts to promote and protect their distinctive identities. 

Developers including Hiranandani, Orbit, KalpataruBSE 0.11 % and HCC have reacted swiftly in recent days to protect their brands. Real estate tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani moved the court to prevent his daughter Priya Hiranandani Vandrevala from using the name ‘Hiranandani’ in her business. The developer has also sought Rs 50 crore as compensation for damage caused by alleged infringement of copyright and trademark by Hiranandani Living (HLPL). 

In another such instance, Mumbaibased Orbit Corp managed an out-ofcourt settlement after filing a Rs 500-crore infringement suit against its namesake company. “How could we allow someone to dilute our brand? We are a listed company on stock exchange. We have the registered trademark for our brand and have been using the name since 1973,” said Pujit Aggarwal, managing director and chief executive of Orbit Corp. Following the settlement, Orbit Ventures has stopped using the name ‘Orbit’. 

Developers say that with increasing competition and a variety of properties coming up, brand names are an important determinant of product value. “It is no surprise that realty developers fiercely protect any encroachment on their brand imagery and if it means fighting long-drawn legal battles, so be it,” said Tina Jain Mehta, founder of Pineapple Consulting, a brand consulting and design firm. 

“They have realised that in this world of sameness, building a brand helps to connect emotionally and thus create differentiation in the minds of consumers,” she added. Ajit Gulabchand-promoted Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has filed a case against HCC Health Care Consortium while Mumbai-based Hubtown (erstwhile Ackruti City) has approached the Bombay High Court to stop Aakruti Buildwell, Aakruti Realtors and Aakruti and Goyal Realtors for alleged infringement of brand name. 
 
“Just like businesses in any other industry , which have long recognised the importance of protecting their intellectual property, real estate industry, too, is taking steps to protect its trademarks,” said Rahul Chaudhry, senior partner with Lall Lahiri & Salhotra. “The protection of trademarks is vital particularly for this industry, where reputation plays a big role in the development of business.” 
 
The Bombay HC had recently ruled against Kalpataru Buildtech Corporation and restricted the use of the name ‘Kalpataru’, recognising that the name was exclusively associated with Kalpataru Properties. “Recent years have seen an increasing trend on the part of corporate houses and business conglomerates to carry out due diligence of their IPR portfolio to implement brand protection strategies,” said Anumeha Iyer, associate, Advaya Legal. “It is an indicator that the hitherto traditional real estate sector is waking up to the value locked away in their brand.” 

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