After bima (insurance) and manjal (turmeric), a company now wants to be the brand owner of the word ‘stem cell’.

Stem cells are powerful cells found in humans and animals. They have been called the centrepieces of regenerative medicine — medicine that involves growing new cells, tissues and organs to replace or repair those damaged by injury, disease or aging.

Ludhiana-based King Multi-tech Global, part of King Group, which has interests in pharmaceuticals and exporting of medical goods, has approached the Trademark office seeking a trademark on the word stem cells. Documents seen by Business Line indicate that the company has sought trademark on stem cell under different spellings namely, stem.cell, stemcells, stem-cell, stem cell, among others.

Sources indicate that if the company is successful in its bid, research and pharma companies will find it tough to contest the case multiple times.

Safir R Anand, Senior Partner and Head of Trademarks, Anand and Anand, noted, “The trademark law was designed only to grant protection to what was proprietary and not in public domain. Words such as stem cells are functional and are beyond the scope of trademark protection and there is an obvious error on the part of the Trademark office in considering them as proprietary.

Anand added the attention of the Trademark office should be drawn to this oversight as the law empowers the Registrar to suo motu cancel an advertisement and refuse an application even after publication.

Stem cell therapy has been used in the treatment of burns, cancer, thalassaemia, leukaemia, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, among others. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has been using stem cell therapy for research purposes since 2005-06 for cardiac failure cases and other neurological disorders.

Hospitals in the country reportedly charge anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for a single shot of stem cells.

The Department of Biotechnology has allocated more than Rs 300 crore over the past five years towards basic and applied research in stem cell technology.

D G Shah, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, also said that allowing trademark of generic words is not permitted as it can lead to misuse of the word.

bindu.menon@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 22, 2013)
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