India – Case Addresses Copyright/Design Overlap

With the increasing realization among stakeholders of the importance of IP rights, we have seen a large number of disputes pertaining to its protection and preservation. It may not be surprising to see disputes involving two or more such rights. An example is the overlap between copyright and designs, which has been rightly dealt with in Section 15(2) of the law addressing the possibility of an artistic work (copy copyright) being adopted as a design and enjoying larger protection than a registered design. The section rightly stipulates that once an article has been reproduced industrially 50 times, an artistic work ceases to enjoy either design or copyright protection.

The Delhi High Court was confronted with copyright and design infringement in Servewell Products Pvt & Anr v Dolphin. Servewell Products was aggrieved by the use of this registered artistic works in trays marketed by Dolphin, which according to it are identical replicas of a registered design by Servewell. It also alleged infringement of the shape of the tray, also a subject matter of the design registration.

Dolphin argued that the alleged copyright lacked originality and submitted extracts to show that the designs are replicas of floral designs found in two published books. Depiction of colours and the structure of flowers can have originality only if there is a unique or new element. The court opined that the present effect brought out in the work could have been achieved even by computer software.

Accordingly, it was held that there was no originality.

As to the infringement of design, Section 4 of the law requires a design to be new or original for it to be eligible for registration and any interested person may apply for cancellation of registration under Section 19. Since Servewell failed to rebut the proof of produced by Dolphin to the existence of prior publications on the same, an ex parte injunction earlier granted in favour of Servewell was taken back.

This judgment has reaffirmed the important of creativity and originality to obtaining sustained protection of one’s intellectual property. This judgment gives the right balance between IP objectives and a country’s development. This can also be attributed to the spread of awareness of IP-related rights among the judiciary and the common people.