Sunday, 6 March 2011

Something rotten in the Indian trade marks registry?

"CBI kept a watch on Trade Marks official" reports the Times of India, but it's nothing to do with my one-time employer the Confederation of British Industry - this is the anti-corruption branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation, who arrested the Deputy Registrar of Trade Marks in the Guindy office of the Indian IPO for allegedly "possessing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income". (The story has also been covered by the Spicy IP blog here.)

How on earth can that be an offence? It might be evidence of some criminal wrongdoing, but plenty of people - throughout history, and all over the world - have had much more in assets than income. I've just been reading  The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (until I found myself identifying too closely with Roderick and decided I'd better give it up half-finished) in which precisely that lies at the heart of the story.

The Times of India goes on:
The CBI had seized Rs 33 lakh in cash, fixed deposits for a value of Rs 85 lakh and gold ornaments weighing about 3.8 kg from her house.
That gives me an excellent opportunity to share with you, dear reader, my recently-acquired knowledge that a lakh is a hundred thousand in the Indian numbering system. (Oh, you knew already? Please move on to another part of my blog, then.) I can see considerable merit in using this system in preference to what we use at present - it will deal with any ambiguity about the meaning of "billion", originally coined in France in the 16th century to denote the second power of a million (which explains the "bi-" prefix), adopted by us later, then for some reason I haven't yet fathomed but which might be the flip side of the subject of 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke) changed by French arithmeticians, who decided that numeration would be better divided into groups of three rather than six. The perfidious Americans then followed the French, who decided (the French, that is) in 1948 to switch back to the way they'd organised numbers before. Perhaps that had something to do with post-war hyperinflation? Maybe the Americans stuck with their definition of a billion so they could move on more quickly from being mere millionaires.

The Indian system goes straight from the lakh (the fifth power of 10 - I don't know how to do superscript here) to the crore (the seventh power), so there's no direct equivalent of the million. The ninth power is an arab (an American billion) and again, because after 1,000 (sahasra) the numbers go up in groups of two there's nothing to correspond to a real billion (the twelfth power of 10).

Anyway, it's definitely a lot of rupees, but I still don't understand how it can be an offence to be rich. Actually, on second thoughts ...

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