Exit polls sparked a war of words on microblogging site Twitter this week, following an episode of trademark infringement by television news channel Times Now.
The channel, part of Times Television, the broadcast arm of Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), publisher of The Times of India newspaper, came out with its exit poll on Monday, marketing it as a “News Nation-Times Now-ORG exclusive”.
For those dealing with market research agencies, ORG is a familiar name. The latter was one of India’s most popular research agencies in the 1980s and 1990s. It merged with rival MARG to form ORG-MARG, subsequently acquired and merged by global major Nielsen over a decade ago.
|SPARRING OVER AN EXIT POLL|
Splinter groups, however, have continued to use the ORG name, albeit with a little tweaking. In the Times Now case, ORG was short for Operations Research Guild India, a Kolkata-based market research company promoted by Amit Roy, a researcher who worked with the original ORG and then Nielsen (then called A C Nielsen) before branching out on his own.
Roy claims there was no trademark infringement and that ORG was used inadvertently by the channel for brevity. “Our short form is ORG India and we have a contract with News Nation, which, in turn, had a content-sharing arrangement with Times Now. The channel was marketing the exit poll as ORG because ORG India, they felt, was a little long. But they have now rectified the error and are referring to us as ORG India,” Roy said.
But the entity raising the objection is clearly not amused. “I hold the trademark for the short ORG,” says Debashish Banerjee, managing director of Operations Research Group Pvt Ltd, a Delhi-based research agency that conducts social research, development planning and infrastructure studies, besides conducting opinion and exit polls for political parties and media companies. “I wrote to Times Now on Monday, asking it to carry the full form of the company that had carried out the poll for it, rather than using the short form ORG. The ‘India’ is hardly visible in their communication. But it is yet to happen. So, my plea has not been addressed,” Banerjee said.
Ironically, Roy of ORG India is a shareholder in Operations Research Group, which was a division of ORG-MARG. Following Nielsen’s acquisition of ORG-MARG, Roy along with Banerjee and other investors bought out Operations Research Group from the latter, setting it up as a standalone company specialising in infrastructure and engineering studies. This was in 2003. By the next year, Roy moved out of Operations Research Group to set up ORG India. “I am a founding director and continue to be a shareholder in Operations Research Group, so where is the question of trademark infringement,” he asks. “This is a deliberate attempt to denigrate us.”
Banerjee of Operations Research Group, on the other hand, says Roy is a former employee who is intentionally using the ORG brand name. “He set up a company that has a similar short form for its name, fully aware that we hold the ORG trademark. My letter also highlights that since we do polls for electronic media ourselves, any variation in the findings of the two could create problems. We routinely conduct exit and opinion polls as well as mood-of-the-nation surveys for Headlines Today and the India Today Group. This is clearly not a good sign when some other company uses our name to present findings on another channel.”
An email sent to Times Now elicited no response till the time of going to press.