More than two decades after the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, India has finally registered the logos of the iconic 'Toy Train' internationally as its intellectual property.
The use of these logos anywhere in the world will now require written permission from India and the payment of a fee, reports the Indian Express.
The DHR, which started operations in 1880, more than 140 years ago, has two logos, both of which have been patented. One has "DHR" in bold black, intertwined letters; the other is a circular seal with a picture of mountains, forests and a river, with "Darjeeling Himalayan Railway" in white lettering on a green background around it.
Both logos are over a century old, and popular in world heritage circuits. They are used randomly on merchandise and communications materials by various commercial organisations in Europe, the UK and the US; even the West Bengal government has used it in communications and on merchandise in the past.
The Railway Ministry in Delhi and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway office in Kurseong, West Bengal, initiated the process of registering the logo with the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry in August.
The claim was then sent to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations based in Geneva, Switzerland, in accordance with the procedure laid down in WIPO's Vienna Classification (VCL). There is a six-month window to register any counter-claims, following which the Indian government's claim will receive international approval.
"We have registered the logo. Anyone who wants to use it will have to take our permission," S K Chaudhary, Divisional Railway Manager, Katihar, Northeast Frontier Railway, said. DHR is part of NFR Katihar division.
Sources said there are plans to patent the logos of India's other mountain railways as well, such as the Mettupalayam-Udagamandalam Nilgiri Mountain Railway, the Kalka-Shimla Railway, and the Matheran Hill Railway.
Before applying to patent the DHR logos, the Railways worked to restore the original artwork on old cutlery and the walls of stations, officials said. DHR archives were mined to retrieve the oldest available artwork, and local talent was employed to create impressions and pictures.
"Some station buildings have the original logo… Original documents and other items were dug out. The logo is India's national property. We need to protect it," DHR director A K Mishra said.
"We can now claim patent fees or user charges if anyone uses the logos," Mishra said. "There is no fixed rate for this as such," he said.
DHR and the Mountain Railways of India (DHR, Nilgiri, and Kalka-Shimla) have been selected by the United Nations Postal Administration among six global UNESCO sites to be made part of its World Heritage Stamp series.
This will put the Darjeeling Toy Train's 'Iron Sherpa' blue steam locomotives of the Darjeeling heritage train on the same pedestal as the legendary transalpine Rhaetian Railway in Switzerland, and is likely to boost its recognition and prominence around the world.
The stamp features a steam locomotive at Ghum station, the highest point on the DHR route, commanding a panoramic view of the Darjeeling Himalayas.
The stamp in a way marks the bouncing back of the Indian Railways at UNESCO World Heritage. Two years ago, the unsatisfactory state of affairs at DHR had invited scrutiny, and the property had seemed in danger of losing its prestigious World Heritage Site recognition. A fortnight-long Ghum Festival is being planned to boost the people connect and tourism prospects of the iconic Toy Train of Darjeeling.