KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken, is one of the most popular fast food chains in India. The primary reason for its popularity is that KFC offers a unique taste and flavour that many Indians find appealing. The use of different spices and herbs in the preparation of fried chicken gives it a distinct taste that sets it apart from other fast food options. Speaking of fried chicken, their ‘chicken zinger’ burger has become a popular and iconic menu item at KFC. However, in a recent order, the Delhi High Court has stated that the American fast food chain cannot claim exclusive trademark rights over the word ‘chicken’. 

According to PTI, the court’s observation came on an appeal by Kentucky Fried Chicken International Holdings LLC against the refusal by a senior examiner of trademarks to register ‘Chicken Zinger’ as its trademark. Setting aside the order, the court directed the trademark registry to proceed with the advertisement of KFC’s application for registration of the mark ‘Chicken Zinger’, within three months. The court further stated that the registry should decide any opposition to KFC’s application on its own merits, uninfluenced by observations made by it.

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“It is clarified that Appellant shall not have any exclusive rights in the word ‘Chicken’. Trademarks registry shall reflect this disclaimer at the time of advertisement of the subject mark and also if the subject mark ultimately proceeds for registration,” said Justice Sanjeev Narula in a recent order. The court observed that the mark in question consisted of two words -“Chicken” and “Zinger” and their use together “does not draw an instant connection”.

The dictionary meaning of ‘Zinger’ is ‘a thing outstandingly good of its kind’ or ‘a wisecrack; punch line’ or ‘a surprise question; an unexpected turn of events’. Use of ‘Zinger’ in conjunction with ‘Chicken’ does not draw an instant connection with the kind of goods/ services and may at best, be considered suggestive,” noted the court.

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The court further observed that KFC nonetheless holds the registration of the word marks ‘Zinger’ and ‘Paneer Zinger’ and the rejection of registration for ‘Chicken Zinger’ seemed to be based on the use of the word ‘Chicken’, over which, the restaurant chain cannot have any exclusivity and no such claim was also being asserted.

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