One's name has been regarded as one's most characteristic possession, which differentiates a person from all other persons and enables him to be known. People are differentiated on the basis of their surnames and goods are identified by their distinctive trade marks. Trade marks which, by association, connote quality are an asset, but trade marks are also a liability because the owner stakes his reputation for better or for worse on his goods.

The right to use one's own name as a trade name, trade mark or service is not absolute. There has been litigation for trade mark infringement resulting from the use of personal name or surname trade marks as the trade mark significance of a surname may come to dominate the surname significance over time through long and exclusive use by the trade mark owner. The basic problem with registering surnames is that they are generally objectionable, per se, on the ground that they are not distinctive and in order to be distinctive it is clear that a mark must be different from other marks used upon or in connection with the same or similar goods.

In this article, I will not only describe the Indian position on the use of surnames as trade marks but also briefly describe the position in United States and Europe.

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