Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ethics in advertising

One of our regular readers, Mr.Abi has sent this note (and a query) for us. I wonder if any of us can answer the query.

I wish to bring to your attention, the issue surrounding the recent IIT coaching centre ads that mention, prominently, that ""the director of IIT Bombay, deans of IIT and 30 professors of IIT Bombay have entrusted us with the responsibility of coaching their children for IIT-JEE". IIT-B has taken strong exception to the use of its name in an ad that appears to imply an institutional endorsement; it's threatening legal action. Here's a ToI report on the same issue.

I am wondering what the law says. Does the act of writing an appreciative letter -- as a parent, not as an official representative of an institution -- allow a coaching centre to use the institution's name? I can't imagine a coaching centre so casually using the name of N.R. Narayan Murthy or Mukesh Ambani in one of its ads -- but this view is based on a perception of who has more power, rather than a legal judgement.

So, does IIT-B really have a strong legal case here? If so, what would be its argument?
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