Supreme Court on copyright in title

Supreme Court on copyright in title.

Respondent claims copyright in a synopsis of a story written by him with the title “Desi Boys” which was also registered with the Film Writers Association. He sent the synopsis of the story by email to accused through his friend. Later the complainant saw the promos of a film bearing the title “Desi Boys”, actually spelt as “Desi Boyz”.

He contended that the adoption of the title “Desi Boyz” was infringement of the copyright in the film title “Desi Boys”. And hence filed complaint being criminal case u/s. 63 of the Copyright Act and charges were also levied u/Ss. 406 and 420 of IPC r/w s. 34 of IPC. Upon issue of process by Metropolitan Magistrate, accused appealed to Bombay High Court u/s. 482 of Cr.P.C. for quashing the complaint and the process. Hon’ble dismissed the appeal and thus matter came before the Supreme Court.

On 15th October 2015, the bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising Justice Lokur and Justice Bobde in Krishika Lulla v. Shyam Vithalrao Devkatta held that generally there would not be any copyright protection for titles of literary works. Such protection can only be claimed in exceptional circumstances, where the title itself was of an inventive nature.

The Court noted that S. 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides protection for original literary works. The Court stated that title by itself is in the nature of a name of a work and is not complete by itself, without the work. A title does not qualify for being described as “work”. It is incomplete in itself and refers to the work that follows.

The Court also referred to precedent from the Madras high Court (( In E.M. Forster and Anr. v. A.N. Parasuram reported in AIR 1964 Madras 331, and in R. Radha Krishnan v. Mr. A.R. Murugadoss & Ors. reported in 2013-5-L.W. 429 )) and Delhi High Court (( In Kanungo Media (P) Ltd. v RGV Film Factory & Ors. reported in (2007) ILR 1 Delhi 1122 )) as well as foreign Courts (( In Hogg v. Maxwell reported in (1866-67) L.R.2 Ch. App. 307, and in Francis Day & Hunter Ltd. v. Twentieth Century Fox Corporation Ltd. and Ors. reported in AIR 1940 Privy Council 55 )) which evidenced the well- settled position that there can be no copyright in the title of a work.

It may be noted that ‘title’ can be protected as trademark. P. K. Pandya & Co. provides service related to trademarks and copyright.