Nov 1, 2017
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Intellectual Property Cases in India

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This article talks about meaning of intellectual property and also gives information about important intellectual property cases.

Intellectual Property Meaning

Property is corporal property and incorporeal property or tangible property and intangible property. Intellectual property meaning is a right pervading some material object. Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the intellect for which a monopoly is assigned to designated owners by law. The intangible products of a man’s brain are as valuable as his land, building, goods, money, belongings etc. it is quite different from real property or a formal property. In fiction, it is a property. Therefore called as intellectual property. The rights relating to the intellectual property however recognized by law as the subject matter of rights of various intangible or immaterial products is human intelligence, skills and labor. In short intellectual property is basically a creation of intellect or relates to intellect. Intellectual property rights are legal rights which govern the use of creations of the human mind and work.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) thus granted to the creators of IP, and include trademarks, copyright, patents, industrial design rights, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets. Artistic works including music and literature, as well as discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs can all protected as intellectual property.

Here are some some Intellectual Property cases which are as follows:-

Intellectual Property cases

  • Satyam Infoway Ltd. v. Sifynet Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Supreme Court of India AIR 2004 SC 3540

This is a very famous and landmark case where the Supreme Court of India decided on the issue of domain name protection for the first time in its history. This was the case wherein the apex court declared that the Indian Trade Marks Act, 1999 was applicable to the regulation of domain names as well.

Satyam Infoway (hereinafter referred to as the appellant) had registered several domain names pertaining to its business: sifynet.com, sifymall.com, sifyrealestate.com, in the year 1999. It held that the word “Sify” was a combination of elements of its corporate name “Satyam Infoway” and was a term that had garnered substantial goodwill in the market. Meanwhile, Sifynet Solutions (hereinafter referred to as the respondent) had started using the word “Siffy” as part of the domain names under which it carried on internet marketing (namely siffynet.com and siffynet.net). It claims to have registered the same in the year 2001.

Subsequently the appellant filed a suit in City Civil Court, Bangalore seeking an injunction against the respondent. The appellant held that the respondent had registered the similar sounding domain names intentionally in order to carry out their business transactions under the goodwill and brand name of the former. And that it would create a confusion in the minds of the public who would think that the services of Sifynet belongs to Satyam Infoway. The respondent contended that unlike a trade mark, the registration of a domain name did not confer an intellectual property right in the name.

The court ruled in favor of the appellant and granted the injunction in their favor. It held that the appellant was the prior user of the word ‘Sify’ as a result of which it enjoyed immense popularity and goodwill in relation to internet and other computer related services. Thereby, if the respondent is allowed to further continue with the use of the domain names it would in all likelihood create confusion in the minds of the public. And that it may in all possibility affect the business of the appellant.

Thereafter, the respondents appealed to the Karnataka High Court. The Court stated that respondent had already invested a considerably high amount of sum in developing a customer base for its business and it would consequently suffer immense hardship and irreparable injury if the court ruled in the appellant’s favor. Further it held that the business which the parties engaged in were different and therefore there was no likelihood of any confusion in the minds of the public.

Not satisfied with the decision given by the Karnataka High Court, the appellants went for an appeal before the Supreme Court of India. The case was decided by a division bench comprising Justices Ruma Pal and P. Venkatarama Reddi. It set aside the decision of the High Court and ruled in favor of the appellants. It held that though no there was no law in India which explicitly deals with the domain names, it falls within the ambit of the Trade Marks Act. Then it further observed that a domain name enjoyed all features of a trademark. Accordingly it ruled that if the respondent was allowed to further continue using the domain names it would in all likelihood create a confusion in the minds of the general public. A user could be diverted to the website containing the unauthorized domain name. And upon his arrival at the website, if he does not find the goods or services associated with the mark, he might think that the legitimate owner was misrepresenting the claims. This would result in the loss for the legitimate owner, thereby affecting his goodwill and brand name.

Thus the apex court granted an injunction in favor of the appellants, thereby restraining the respondents from further using the domain names in their business transactions.

  • DM entertainment v Baby Gift House and ors. [MANU/DE/2043/2010]

Daler Mehndi, the most famous pop star hailing from Punjab has created a niche audience and is immensely popular amongst Punjabi-pop music lovers. The appellant company was incorporated in 1996 to manage the artist’s escalating career. The crux of the case is that the defendants had prolific businesses in selling miniature toys of Daler Mehndi and majorly cashed on to his popularity. Majorly aggrieved, the plaintiff company filed for permanent injunction from infringing the artist’s right of publicity and false endorsement leading to passing off.

The plaintiff company had been assigned all the rights, titles and interests in the personality of the artist along with the Trademark, Daler Mehndi. It was contended by the plaintiff that the unauthorized or unlicensed use of or any part of the reputation of the artist, with respect to goods or services of any manner will lead to make an impression on the public that the goods or services are associated with the singer. And hence, it was submitted that such a use would lead to passing off. It was further averred by the plaintiff that such use was done for commercial exploitation without adequate permission from the person or any other authorized by him, shall constitute infringement of the person’s right to publicity.

Section 29 of the Trademark Act-1999 (hereinafter the Act) lays down the aspects of infringement of trademark. It elucidates that a when a person is using, in course of trade any mark, which is identical or deceptively similar to a registered mark and which he is not entitled or licensed to use shall be deemed to infringe onto the rights of the person who has the lawful right over the mark.

The Act does not give a specific description of passing off as a result it has been derived through judicial precedents drawn from common law. Put simply , passing off would occur when the mark is not only being used deceptively similar to the mark of another but it is being used to create confusion in the minds of the consumer that results in the damage or loss of business for the person or company who/which is the lawful owner of the trademark.

Character merchandising is an area of law which is unexplored in India. The first case that dealt with this was Star India Private Limited v Leo Burnett India (Pvt.) Ltd. The courts in India in these earlier cases, had not dealt with publicity rights. In this case the Court did so quite emphatically. The court meted out a compensatory amount to the tune of Rs. 1,00,000 to the Plaintiff. The intent of the judiciary is clear.

  • The  Coca-Cola Company Vs. Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd [Manu/DE/2698/2009]

The Delhi High Court held that if the threat of infringement exists, then this court would certainly have jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

It was also held that the exporting of goods from a country is to be considered as sale within the country from where the goods are exported and the same amounts to infringement of trademark.

In the present matter, the defendant, Bisleri by a master agreement, had sold and assigned the trademark MAAZA including formulation rights, know-how, intellectual property rights, goodwill etc for India only with respect to a mango fruit drink known as MAAZA to Coca-Cola.

In 2008, the defendant filed an application for registration of the trade mark MAAZA in Turkey started exporting fruit drink under the trademark MAAZA. The defendant sent a legal notice repudiating the agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant, leading to the present case. The plaintiff, the Coca Cola Company also claimed permanent injunction and damages for infringement of trademark and passing off.

It was held by the court that the intention to use the trademark besides direct or indirect use of the trademark was sufficient to give jurisdiction to the court to decide on the issue. The court finally granted an interim injunction against the defendant (Bisleri) from using the trademark MAAZA in India as well as for export market, which was held to be infringement of trade mark.

  • John Richard Brady & Others. v. Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd, Delhi High Court AIR 1987 Delhi 372

This is a case concerning the legal principle of copyright infringement involving trade secrets and engineering. John Richard Brady (hereinafter referred to as Brady) was a Mechanical Engineer from the U.S and also the President and Managing Director of Fometa Overseas S.A. Castellana, Madrid, Spain. He conceived the idea of growing fresh green grass used as basic food for livestock in a compact unit capable of producing grass throughout the year irrespective of external climatic conditions. Thereafter in 1972 he developed the original Fodder Production Unit (hereinafter referred to as the FPU). After carrying out extensive research and experiments, he invented an improved Fodder Production Unit. He applied for grant of patent in India in relation to the FPU and his patent application was pending. Brady was the owner of copyright in the drawings of the FPU and was entitled to the exclusive right of publishing and reproducing the drawings whether two dimensionally or three dimensionally as he considered apt.

For these purposes Brady set up two companies in India: Fometa (India) Machine Private Ltd, a joint venture company and Sanjeevani Fodder Production Private Ltd. Accordingly he along with the members of the two companies decided that a phased programme should be adopted to manufacture the FPU in India for both domestic and export sales. For the manufacture of the FPU, the he sought quotations from Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd for the supply of thermal panels manufactured by it. The panels required were of highly specialized type and order. And to enable the company to manufacture the components of the FPU precisely, all the technical material, detailed know how, drawings and specifications concerning the FPU were passed on them under the express condition that it must maintain strict confidentiality regarding all the information given. Later, Brady discovered the inability of the company to supply the required thermal panels and cancelled all the orders given to them. It was alleged that Managing Director along with other representatives of the company made several visits to Goa where Brady’s FPU was in operation in order to acquire the working know how and technology of the FPU. Some of these visits were without the knowledge of Brady who was later informed about them by his employees. Thereafter in November, 1985 he came to know that Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd was developing their own FPU by falsely representing that the innovation concerning the FPU was originated from them. The company described the Machine produced by them as ‘pushti’. And a suit was filed in the Delhi High Court by Brady seeking for an injunction which would restrain Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd from manufacturing and selling machines that were substantial imitation and reproduction of the drawings of the former’s FPU or from using in any other manner whatsoever the know-how, specifications, drawings and other technical information about the FPU disclosed to them by the former.

Brady contended that the Machine produced by the company was entirely based upon disclosures made them formerly and that they committed breach of confidence reposed in them. They wrongfully converted and misappropriated the know how information, drawings, designs, and specifications disclosed to them under strict confidentiality and have also infringed the his copyright by making the Machine in three dimensional form. He further contended that the Machine produced by the company was an inferior version of his own FPU. He claimed claim jurisdiction of this court to entertain and try the suit under Section 62(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957 on the ground that he has been carrying on his business along with the two companies he set, for profit and gain at Delhi and that the Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd have also been circulating pamphlets of the infringing Machine and offering it for sale at Delhi.

However, Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd contended that they have neither infringed copyright of Brady nor are they liable for breach of any confidence reposed on them. They denied that the technical Drawings of the FPU are artistic work, but they did not didn’t oppose the fact that Brady was the owner of the copyrights in the Drawings. They further contended that there were other firms making such Machines in the international market for a long time, namely, LAND SAVERS and SOMERSET ZERO GRASS U.K. and DHANY A, India. And that the FPU was based on the long known theory of Hydroponic System. Hence they completely denied that Brady gave them any Drawings or technical material or know how concerning the FPU. They further questioned the territorial jurisdiction of this Court on the ground that Brady did not actually reside in Delhi nor does he carry on any business in Delhi and that they themselves do not reside or work in Delhi.

The case was decided by a Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Justice A B Saharya. He ruled that unless Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd  was restrained by injunction, irreparable injury and loss would be caused to Brady and his establishments by the former if they continue to manufacture and sell their Machine. Further he laid down that it was in the interest of justice to restrain the company from using the know-how, specifications, drawings and other technical information regarding Brady’s FPU entrusted to them under express condition of strict confidentiality.

Thus, the court restrained the Chemical Process Equipment Pvt. Ltd from manufacturing and selling machines that were substantial imitation and reproduction of the drawings of Brady’s FPU or from using in any other manner whatsoever the know-how, specifications, drawings and other technical information about the FPU disclosed to them by Brady.

  • Colgate Palmolive Co. Ltd & Another. vs. Mr. Patel & Others., Delhi High Court 2005 PTC (31) 583

This is a case relating to the legal principle of infringement of a trademark. It was decided by a Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Justice M Mudgal.

Colgate Palmolive Co. Limited (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiffs) is a company that has been manufacturing and marketing dental products in India under the well-known trademark ‘COLGATE’ since 1937. The company undoubtedly is also an international leader in the trade of tooth paste and other dental related products. The plaintiffs registered their trademark in India in the year 1954. Since then they have always marketed their products in red cartons which had the word COLGATE inscribed in white on it. They used a particular font for printing the trademark on the cartons. Further they had even registered their label relating to colors in India in the year 1959. From then on they have been exclusively enjoying the ownership rights over the trademark ‘COLGATE’ and also the label containing the red and white colors inscribed on it.

In the year 2003 the plaintiffs came to know that Mr. Patel and his company(hereinafter referred to as the defendants) were using the plaintiff’s COLGATE trade dress in the packaging of their products with relation to the layout and color combination of the cartons. The defendants used the word ‘AJANTA’ printed in white color in a red background in their cartons. Subsequently the plaintiffs filed a suit before the Delhi High Court seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants, thereby restraining them from using the trade dress that was similar in layout and appearance even though the names printed on the cartons were different.  They contended that the defendants had infringed their trademark and copyrights. And further that they were indulging in unfair competition by trying to sell their products using the brand name of trademark COLGATE.

On the other hand, the defendants contended that there was nothing distinctive in the color combination of the plaintiff’s container and that the plaintiff could not have a trademark in color combination. Further they claimed that the red and white label was common to the toothpaste trade.

The Honorable Judge observed that essential feature of the plaintiffs’ mark was COLGATE inscribed in white color on a red background and not merely red and white color combination alone. He held that the printing of the word ‘AJANTA’ on the defendants’ cartons in white color on a red background does not give rise to any infringement of the plaintiffs’ trade dress. Also affirmed the contention of the defendants that red was a basic color and the red & white color combination is common to the tooth paste trade in the domestic as well as the international market. Hence there cannot be any monopolization of the same by any party. However, he finally held that the defendants were liable for trying to sell their products using the brand name of COLGATE since there was sufficient resemblance between the plaintiffs’ and the defendants’ product. Further the court ruled that if the defendant alters the packaging there would not arise any question of infringement of the copyright and trademark of the plaintiff. Accordingly the court ordered them to substitute gold for white color in the description of ‘AJANTA’ in their cartons.

Thus, the injunction application was disposed of by the court and the defendants were permitted to market their products provided they made the required alterations in their packaging of the products.

  • Bajaj Auto Limited Vs. TVS Motor Company Limited JT 2009 (12) SC 103

This case involved the controversy regarding the unauthorized application of the patent of the DTSi technology. The case became very vital regarding not only the financial stakes of the parties but also regarding the application of the doctrine of pith and marrow also termed as Doctrine of Equivalents.

This case was filed before the Madras High Court in 2007. The plaintiffs (Bajaj Auto Ltd), along with the state of Maharashtra alleged the defendants (T.V.S. Motor Company Ltd.) of infringement of the patents of the plaintiffs, which apprehended the invention of the technology of advanced internal combustion engine. The case engaged the questions of patent infringement by the defendant and the damages for the same. Furthermore, the case threw light upon the argument regarding justification of the risks issued by the defendant of the same case.

The plaintiffs sought remedy of permanent injunction for obstructing the defendants from using the technology or invention prescribed in the patents of the plaintiffs; and for obstructing them from marketing, selling offering for sale or exporting 2/3 wheelers (including the proposed 125cc TVS FLAME motorcycle) that consisted of the disputed internal combustion engine or product that infringed the patent. Damages for infringement of the patent were also claimed by the Plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court of India by this landmark judgement directed all the courts in India for speedy trial and disposal of intellectual property related cases. In this two-year-old dispute involving two companies, which had been locked in a patent dispute over the use of a twin-spark plug engine technology, the Supreme Court observed that suits relating to the matters of patents, trademarks and copyrights are pending for years and years and litigation is mainly fought between the parties about the temporary injunction. The Supreme Court directed that hearing in the intellectual property matters should proceed on day to day basis and the final judgment should be given normally within four months from the date of the filing of the suit. The Supreme Court further directed to all the courts and tribunals in the country to punctually and faithfully carry out the aforesaid orders.

 

 

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Article Categories:
Trademarks Copyrights IP

Avani is a LL.B. student of New Law College. Classical use of language and adeptness with the written word make her treasure useful legal information. In her spare time, she writes prose and pursue an active interest in creative writing.

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