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India. Only aviation companies can fly with Kingfisher logo, warns United Breweries

Beermaker United Breweries has said the Kingfisher logo that belonged to Kingfisher AirlinesBSE 3.03 % can only be used for aviation and warned of legal challenges if it is used in other categories.

In the first official comment on the issue after the banks' decision to auction the logo, United Breweries, the maker of Kingfisher and Kalyani Black Label beers, said a buyer will be able to use the logo only to set up another airline and for nothing else.

Using the logo for any other purpose will be legally challenged by UB since it holds exclusive rights to the brand, the company warned.

Lenders to Kingfisher Airlines had called for bids for the logo in a public notice on March 29 as part of efforts to recover dues of more than Rs 9,000 crore. The public notice specified that the logo belonged to the airline and would be sold with other trademarks such as Fly Kingfisher, the logo of the Flying Bird Device and the word mark 'Fly the Good Times'.

The logo and the name Kingfisher, associated with the popular brand, were also used by the airline company when Vijay Mallya pushed his group into aviation in 2007. The airline's logo is slightly different from the beer logo but it is not very obvious and UB officials feel the scope for mischief is high in case the buyer happens to be a rival beer or alcohol manufacturer.

UB Managing Director Shekhar Ramamurthy told ET that the Kingfisher mark belongs to United Breweries Limited. "We also have exclusive rights to the Kingfisher trademark in a few other categories such as merchandising material, clothing, etc. The trademark that is being put up for sale by SBI (State Bank of India) is for the airline category only. Any prospective buyer cannot use it in any category where we have exclusive usage rights," he said.

UB officials said the company is not responsible for or connected to any guarantees made by United Breweries Holdings owned by Mallya. "The lenders need to do their homework before the public bids," another UB Group official said. "They have to tell possible buyers what they can do with that logo and brand. We will legally challenge plans for any other category."

Bankers are not very enthused about the sale of the Kingfisher brand and trademark, which will go under the hammer on April 30 for a reserve price of Rs 366.7 crore.

"We are not expecting any bids at the auction, but we have to follow the process," said a banker on the condition of anonymity. "If we don't put these intangible assets on the block there will be pressure from the Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Vigilance Commission alleging that we didn't do our fullest to recover dues."

Sources also said that before Kingfisher Airlines went bellyup, banks had valued the brand and trademark at Rs 160 crore, but later an external agency had assigned a value of Rs 4,100 crore to the Kingfisher brand in 2011.

The Kingfisher brand name was pledged to 14 lenders, including SBI, IDBI BankBSE 4.39 %, Punjab National Bank, Bank of India and Bank of Baroda under a debt recast agreement. Alpana Parida, president of brand consultancy DY Works, said while other airlines connote flying, travel or hospitality, Kingfisher Airlines stood for the 'king of good times'.

"This essence allows the brand to stretch across multiple categories. The brand transcended a direct association with its now-beleaguered promoter... The promise of good times allows the brand to stretch and (it) can be even used to sell newer categories such as real estate and fashion," she said.

1 Apr. 2016

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