16 August 2023 • 3 min read
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In the competitive world of trademarks, even global giants like restaurant chain KFC can face obstacles. One recent trademark battle has caught the media’s attention: the restaurant chain KFC's struggle to secure the trademark for its popular menu item, the "Chicken Zinger." This blog post explores KFC's trademark dispute by the Indian court.
It's one of the greatest success stories of a small business.
KFC is the stuff small business dreams are made of. What started as a one-person enterprise — Harland Sanders cooking for hungry travelers at a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky, 93 years ago has grown to 25,000 fried chicken international holdings in over 145 countries worldwide.
As a global leader in the fast-food industry, KFC has mastered the art of creating a convenient dining experience for its customers.
Whether through its drive-thru services, efficient ordering systems, or convenient locations in various parts of the world, the restaurant chain strives to provide a seamless and efficient customer experience. KFC aims to understand convenience to today's busy consumers constantly on the go.
Intellectual property is central to this success — from its super-secret spice mix to its famous slogan "It's Finger-Lickin' Good," KFC has 278 trademarks.
But their trademark strategy hit a bump when an Indian court ruling prevented KFC from trademarking "Chicken Zinger."
The Delhi High Court ruled against KFC's parent company, YUM! Brands, which also owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, in its appeal against a previous decision by the court, which directed a senior examiner of trademarks to reject KFC's application to register "Chicken Zinger" as a trademark.
The High Court observed the court found that the company couldn’t claim exclusive rights to the use of the two-word marks Chicken and Zinger.
The rejection of the appeal was based entirely on the use of the word chicken as Harland Sanders' KFC already holds registration for "Zinger" and "Paneer Zinger."
According to the court, the subject mark contains two words, "Chicken" and "Zinger," and their use together "does not draw an instant connection with the kinds of goods/services and may, at best, be considered suggestive."
Senior Examiner Justice Sanjeev Narula played a significant role in the court ruling against KFC's trademark application in India. Justice Sanjeev Narula decided to reject the application centered around the fact that KFC has no exclusive rights over the word chicken and couldn’t claim exclusive rights to the word "Chicken."
This ruling highlights the importance of navigating trademark proceedings and working closely with legal experts to ensure compliance with trademark laws.
However, the court has directed the Trademark Registry to proceed with the advertisement of the registration application for the subject mark within three months and settle any opposition to the registration or use of the word subject mark or such claim as a subject mark as it sees fit.
Effective marketing is crucial in establishing brand recognition and distinguishing products in the marketplace. The Kentucky fried chicken international goods chain's branding efforts have made its name synonymous with delicious chicken worldwide.
However, the trademark rejection highlights the need for businesses to evolve their marketing strategies to reinforce their brand image and protect their trademarks. Adapting marketing initiatives to local contexts and consumer preferences can help businesses maintain a competitive edge.
The decision of the Delhi High Court carries considerable weight in the ongoing trademark dispute between KFC and the Indian Trademark Registry.
The court's ruling not only rejected KFC's trademark application but, in an unexpected turn, the court also directed the Trademark Registry to proceed with the advertisement of the application while settling any opposition to the registration. This unexpected turn sets the stage for a potentially lengthy and uncertain legal process.
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Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.
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