The ‘Dr’ is in (or is it?)

Doctors who have MBBS degrees often grumble about practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic or Unani medicine and homeopaths calling themselves doctors, and worse, prescribing allopathic medicines (which they refer to as ‘crosspathy’). The Indian Medical Association has a solution: a unique emblem.

The IMA has got a No-Objection Certification from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to trademark a red cross with the letters ‘Dr’ in the centre, on a white background, and is now registering it. Allopathic practitioners will be able to use it on prescriptions and signage to indicate that they have studied modern medicine.

Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, president of the IMA, says that the umbrella body put out a call for designs and suggestions in 2015, and received over 110 designs from doctors across the country. Dr. Jayesh Lele, of the Maharashtra IMA, said that the aim was to have something simple and easily identifiable with medicine. “The emblem would be of great service to the public who are often unaware that they are visiting a non-allopathic practitioner. It will help them distinguish an MBBS doctor. Also, it will empower us to initiate action against crosspathy practitioners or quacks who wrongly use the emblem.”

The NOC certificate from the IPO states, “no trademark identical with or deceptively similar to the said artistic work has been registered or applied for registration under the Trade Marks Act 1999 as per computer record of this office.”

The potential problem: the emblem closely resembles one of the emblems of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and has been recognised since the 1864 Geneva Convention as a distinctive sign for medical relief teams on battlefields.

“We have used a lighter red shade for the cross, and we also have the abbreviation ‘Dr’ in the centre, which will differentiate the logo.” Dr Aggarwal says. Later he added, “There is no duplication as far as we are concerned. This is to ensure that quacks are contained. The world over we have white, blue, green cross. That doesn’t mean that we cant use cross for as a symbol.”

India’s Geneva Convention Act, 1960, Section 12, prohibits the use (without the Central Government’s permission) of ‘any design or wording’ that resembles the Red Cross emblems closely enough to be mistaken for it. In the past, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), a member of the IRCRC movement, has written to various State governments demanding they stop the unauthorised use of the red cross image. In January 2011, the Maharashtra government issued a resolution warning strict action against unauthorised usage of the logo by doctors, hospitals and others. Many pharmacies switched to the internationally accepted green cross on a white background, and some doctors chose the snakes-and-rod symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, but many continue to use a red cross to denote a medical set-up.

Neel Kamal Singh, IRCS’s deputy secretary, told The Hindu , “Even if one changes the colour or slightly changes the pattern of the cross or applies any other filter, it will not be permitted. This is a rule set by the Geneva Convention and the Indian government has committed to it.”

Union Health Secretary C.K. Mishra said he was not aware if any objection had been raised over the emblem: “As of now we have no information on the matter.”

(With inputs from Bindu Shajan Perppadan in New Delhi)

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 9:43:48 am |