Home Bollywood Bollywood’s Sholay Still Reigns Supreme: Protecting Film Titles in India

Bollywood’s Sholay Still Reigns Supreme: Protecting Film Titles in India


Cinema is a way of life in India and one film that embodies this national obsession is Shawley. Released nearly half a century ago, Shawley It was a genre-defining film whose appeal transcended all boundaries of geography, language, ideology, and class, and set the standard for what we now call “masala” blockbusters. With its iconic status and enduring popularity, it’s no surprise that the film has been the subject of numerous lawsuits over the years. Recently, the Delhi High Court dealt with the rights and protections available to film titles that were rarely discussed in the context of this film.

A 25-year-old debate ends

for a movie like this Shawley, the title remains relevant long after it’s published. Judge Pratibah M. Singh of the Delhi High Court quelled a 20-year battle, describing the film as “part of the Indian heritage”, exist Sholay Media Entertainemt and Anr. v. Yogesh Patel and Ors., CS (COMM) 8/2016.

This isn’t the first time Sholay’s ownership has been discussed in court.exist Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd and Anr. v Parag Sanghavi and Ors. (CS(OS) 1892/2006, Delhi High Court, 24 August 2015), “Sholay” was declared a “well-known” trademark. The court also ruled that, under section 17 of the Copyright Act 1957, the copyright in the film belongs to the producer.The court further ruled that the use of similar plots, characters and the use of underlying music, lyrics, background soundtrack and even dialogue also constituted a copyright infringement ShawleyThe moral rights of the plaintiff were violated by the distortion and mutilation of the original work by the defendant.

In this case, Sholay Media and Entertainment (P) Ltd. and Sippy Films (P) Ltd. (plaintiff) sued defendant for using a movie title in a domain name (eg, “www.sholay.com”), publishing a magazine using the term Shawley And sell a variety of merchandise showcasing scenes and characters from the movie. The defendant also filed a trademark registration application for the trademark in 1999. Shawley in the US and India.Plaintiffs seek permanent injunction against use Shawley Defendants allege that such use resulted in infringement, counterfeiting, dilution and defilement of their well-known trademarks.

Defendants did not deny or challenge their use of Shawley and justified it for the following reasons:

  1. Movie titles are not entitled to protection.
  2. They filed for trademark registration earlier than the plaintiff.
  3. There is no possibility of confusion because (i) the goods and services offered by the parties are different and unrelated; and (ii) their websites are on the Internet and only accessible to educated persons.

Indian film title law

Before getting to what the court actually said, it’s useful to quickly summarize the legal stance on movie titles.

Indian law does not always clearly define the intellectual property rights conferred on film titles. The Indian Copyright Act of 1957 does not provide full copyright in film titles. The definition of “work” in copyright law does not include movie titles.as the Supreme Court Krishika Lulla & Ors. V. Shyam Vithalrao Devkatta & Anr. (2016) 2 SCC 521, Movie titles are not entitled to protection under the Copyright Act 1957 because they lack the “minimum authorship” required for protection. The court reasoned that, according to Article 13, copyright exists in original literary works, and the film title itself is incomplete, referring to the following works.

Protection for film titles is usually sought under the Trademarks Act 1999. Class 41 provides for the registration of trade marks in relation to entertainment services. In addition to class 41, filmmakers also resort to auxiliary classes related to film marketing, such as class 09 (movie film, vinyl records and tapes), class 16 (promotional stationery), class 25 (for clothing) and Class 35 (for advertising, marketing and publicity) and Class 42 (software, video design and development).

Film industry associations such as the Producers Guild of India, the Society of Film Producers of India and the Society of Film Writers also encourage the registration of film titles to protect the commercial interests of films produced in India. Such registrations do not provide any statutory protection, but can enforce rights in a self-regulatory manner.

Delhi High Court 2022 verdict

The court outright rejected claims that movie titles are not entitled to trademark protection, arguing that some movies go beyond the boundaries of ordinary words. For example, “Sholay” is a trademark specifically associated with the film and the plaintiff. Even if plaintiffs do not register it as a trademark, they are entitled to protection under passing-off laws.For this reason, the court Krishika Lulla & Ors. V. Shyam Vithalrao Devkatta & Anr. (2016) 2 SCC 521in which the Supreme Court said “… the titles of literary works do not subsist in copyright, and the plaintiff or complainant is not entitled to relief on this basis, except in an action for passing off or for a registered trademark containing such a title. ” The court further relied on Kanungo Media (P) Ltd. Five. RGV Film Studios & Ors. 2007 SCC Online Part 314which acknowledged the applicability of the passing-off doctrine under the Trademark Act to unregistered film titles, stating, “In passing off, a necessary element is the possibility of confusion, and in order to establish this element it is necessary to demonstrate that the title has acquired a secondary meaning. Therefore, while movie titles are entitled to protection under trademark law, the test of whether a counterfeiting lawsuit is sustainable in the absence of a registered title would need to determine:

A generation. Titles have secondary meaning; ii. Potential audiences may confuse source, affiliation or connection.

exist canongo mediaPlaintiff has filed a pass-off lawsuit against the use of the title Nishabud Defendants for their upcoming movie. The court applied the secondary significance test, finding that the plaintiff’s film was a Bengali-language documentary, and its ratings did not reach secondary significance compared to the Hindi-language film. The plaintiff failed to register the film title as a trademark and was slow to take action against the defendant, who had begun publicity. Their Upcoming movie. According to the court, this delay resulted in the plaintiffs’ acquiescence.

In this case, the court held that Shore’s Reputation as a film has been recognised judicially, pointing to Mumbai High Court verdict Anil Kapoor Film Co. Pvt. Ltd. v Make My Day Entertainment & Anr 2017 SCC Online Bom 8119. In this decision, Shawley Being mentioned has gained so much reputation that the title of the movie is uniquely associated with the movie and nothing else. The Delhi High Court held that the film’s reputation was indisputable and therefore a secondary meaning according to the title.In addition, the plaintiff also registered Shawley as a trademark in multiple classes.

Regarding the defendant’s earlier claim for trademark registration, the court stated: Shawley Released in 1975, long before the defendant’s company was registered and established.

Regarding the defendant’s argument that there would be no confusion due to differences in goods and services, the court said that the content of the film is no longer limited to theaters. Movies have expanded to online and other platforms. The Internet has created additional markets for movies. Shawley It itself has also expanded into various markets and holds multiple trademark registrations in various classes. Most such registrations will cover activities carried out by the defendant. Therefore, it is highly probable that the defendant’s goods and services are offshoots of the film. Regarding the use of the Internet, the court noted that there are now billions of users accessing the Internet around the world.Given the film’s fame and popularity, it’s easy for anyone educated or illiterate to make a connection between the defendant’s website and the film Shawley.

In conclusion, the court granted a permanent injunction in favor of the plaintiff, restricting the defendant’s use of the mark Shawley. The court also awarded damages of INR 25,00,000/- (approximately $33,000), a relatively small amount in the circumstances, and directed the transfer of all domains containing the name Shawley or any variant that looks similar to the plaintiff.

in conclusion

2022 Shawley The judgment reinforces the position that movie titles are entitled not only to protection under trademark law, but also to common law protection through passing off. Trademark registration is not a prerequisite for obtaining this protection.for a movie so famous Shawley, it wasn’t just the storyline that caught the audience’s attention, over the years audiences have also begun to associate various elements of the production with the film. The title gets the most attention and is the starting point for most people’s references and memories. The verdict rightly acknowledged the efforts of the filmmakers to achieve this kind of goodwill, making the title fully associated with the film and fully acquiring its own meaning.

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