International Nonproprietary Names (INN):
Established by WHO, the International Nonproprietary Names (INN) Program assigns nonproprietary names to pharmaceutical substances so that each substance is recognized by a unique name. The INN or generic names may be used for marketing purposes by any manufacturer of a particular medicine. The INNs are needed for the clear identification, safe prescription and dispensing of medicines, and for communication and exchange of information among health professionals.
INNs can be used freely because they are in the public domain. To maintain the nonproprietary nature of INNs and to ensure the future development of related INNs it is imperative that it is not appropriated as trademarks.
Regulation of INN in India:
Can an INN be registered as a Trademark in India?
The Trade Marks Act of India explicitly prohibits registration of INNs as trademarks that are deceptively similar to INNs.
The Act imposes a legal restraint (under section 13 of the Trade Mark Act) on trademark registration of words which is declared by the WHO and notified in the prescribed manner by the Registrar from time to time, as an INN or that is deceptively similar to such a name. It further states that any such registration shall be deemed (for the purpose of section 57 of the Act) to be an entry made in the register without sufficient cause or an entry wrongly remaining on the register, as the circumstances may require.
It is pertinent to point out that even where the WHO recommends a name as an INN, it does not come within the ambit of protection offered by the Trademarks Act unless it is notified as such by the Trade Marks Registrar.
In 2012, the list of INNs, enlisting 8151 pharmaceutical substances as INNs, and as declared by the WHO was published by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM).
The list of INN as declared by the Registry is expected to help the agents and applicants to assess their application prior to filing for trademark registration and to obviate expensive litigation dispute later on. On the other hand the INN-derived marks that are already registered are exposed to the threat of legal challenge by any public interest group or other interested person or the Registrar (as stated above).
It is therefore advisable to conduct a search amongst the list of pharmaceutical substances declared as INNs, before choosing the name for a drug / pharmaceutical as its trademark.
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