Blog Intellectual Property Law

Ritu Kumar v. Biba

Ritika Private Ltd. vs Biba Apparels Pvt Ltd. 230 (2016) DLT 109

Delhi High Court

Judges: Justice Valmiki J. Mehta

Applicable law: Section 15 of the Copyright Act, 1957

Did you know: In order for the owner of a design to enjoy protection under the Designs Act, 1911, it is necessary that the design be registered under the act.

Effect of Legal Provisions: Section 15 of the Copyright Act states that if a design is registered under the Designs Act, 1911 the copyright in such design will cease. Copyright will also cease even if the design is not registered but is capable of registration and the design has been reproduced more than 50 times.

Where it all began:

  1. Ritika owns the famous brand ‘Ritu Kumar’ and Biba Apparels also owns a famous brand called ‘Biba’. Both produced apparel and accessories using industrial designs
  2. Ritika alleged that Biba had copied the designs of Ritu Kumar and had used them to produce apparel and as such, it had infringed the copyright of Ritika.
  3. Ritika’s designs are not registered under the designs act.

Legal issue: Once the copyrighted works of the plaintiff are applied for the making of dresses, and the production of dresses exceeds 50 in number, whether protection of copyright is lost?

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Ritika’s arguments: there is originality in the garment prints and sketches created by Ritika Pvt Ltd for the dresses/garments. It is pleaded that its ensembles are so designed that each component, such as sleeves, front and back panels etc are delineated and are coordinated with unique features. As such it is entitled to copyright protection.

Biba’s arguments: Because the designs of Ritika are industrial designs, the suit for infringement of copyright is barred because of Section 15 of the Copyright Act.

Judgment in the case:

  1. The court came to the conclusion that the suit was barred by Section 15(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957 as Ritika’s copyright in the said works had ceased to exist.
  2. Ritika’s case fell squarely under Section 15(2) of the Copyright Act, 1957 i.e. the copyright in Ritika’s designs ceased to exist as it had been reproduced more than 50 times by an industrial process.


The court elucidated the position as to the operation of subsection (2) of section 15 and re-affirmed the view that the bar would apply under certain conditions even if the design is not registered.

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The Himalaya Drug Company vs Sumit 2006

Delhi High Court

Judges: Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed

Applicable law: Copyright Act, 1957

Did you know: ‘Meta-Data’ is like a digital footprint, which allows a person to assess what tools and code have been used to develop a particular website

Where it all began:

  1. Drug Company is engaged in the manufacture and sale of Ayurvedic Medicinal preparations and was established in the trade in the year 1930. Realizing the potential of the Internet as a medium of information, the plaintiff registered its own domain name’ on 10.6.1998 and developed a website under the said name.
  2. The most important feature of the website is the section titled “HIMALAYAS HERBS”. This section essentially consists of a database of a wide variety of medicinal herbs, arranged in alphabetical order.
  3. Such information is not only comprehensive but is also arranged in a manner that is visually appealing and easy to grasp. It was clear that Himalaya has expended considerable time, labour, skill and money in preparing this database of Ayurvedic Herbs that find mentioned on its website. Himalaya has claimed that the preparation of the database began sometime in June 1998 and took more than a year to complete.

Legal issue: Whether Sumit has infringed the copyright of Himalaya and if so what damages is Himalaya entitled to?

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Himalaya’s arguments: Himalaya noticed that Sumit was operating a website “” which reproduced Himalaya’s entire herbal data verbatim. The copying was to such an extent that even the grammatical or syntactical errors that appear on Himalaya’s website have been copied onto Sumit’s website. Moreover, the meta tag of the source code of Sumit’s website includes Himalaya’s trademark “Himalaya Drug Co.”

Sumit’s arguments: Sumit did not appear despite service and the case proceeded ex-parte

Judgment in the case:

  1. The Court held that Sumit had misappropriated the effort, skill and expense that had gone into the creation of Himalaya’s website. Therefore, Sumit had copied the entire herbal database of the plaintiff and had infringed the copyright of Himalaya.
  2. The plaintiff has also been able to demonstrate that the defendants have attempted to pass off its herbal database as and for that of the plaintiff’s and have also violated the “trade dress” rights that exist in respect of the plaintiff’s herbal database. The reason being that the plaintiff’s herbal database is unique and, therefore, any similar herbal database that appears on a different website is bound to create confusion by causing a consumer to associate the website with that of the plaintiff’s.
  3. Because Sumit did not appear in this case it was impossible to assess what kind of profits he had earned from the website and accordingly difficult to calculate damages. Thus the court calculated the costs involved in preparing and putting up the website. Those costs were 7.9 Lakhs and the court granted 7.9 Lakhs as compensatory damages and an additional 7.9 Lakhs as punitive/Exemplary damages.

Significance: The judgment is noteworthy because it has used a novel way of calculating damages and has awarded both compensatory as well as punitive damages.


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B.N. Firos vs. State of Kerala and Ors.

Supreme Court of India

Judges: Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar

Applicable law: Sections 2(k) and 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Section 70 of the I.T. Act

Did you know: The government is empowered to declare any computer system as a protected system under the IT Act. Such declaration prohibits any person except the government to access such a computer system. This is to enable the government to protect critical IT infrastructure.

Effect of provisions: Section 2(k) defined a ‘Government Work’ and Section 17(d) vests the copyright of the government work in the government. Section 70 of the I.T. Act allows the government to declare any computer system as a ‘Protected System’ and access to such protected systems is barred to any other person except the government

Where it all began:

  1. The State of Kerala entered into an agreement to develop software for one-stop bill payment systems with the software giant Microsoft. Microsoft agreed to do so for free on a pilot basis and engaged a 3rd party M/s B.N. Firos for the development of the same
  2. After successful implementation State of Kerala sought to expand the project to all districts and an MOU was concluded between B.N. Firos and the state of Kerala.
  3. N. Firos alleged that the State of Kerala was transferring essential rights in the software to third parties and it was not allowed to do so.
  4. Both B.N.Firos and State of Kerala sought to be declared as exclusive owners of the copyright of the software.
  5. During the pendency of the dispute, State of Kerala issued a notification under Section 70 of the Information Technology Act declaring the software as a ‘Protected System’.
  6. N. Firos challenged the notification and held that the same was a violation of its rights as  the author of the software under Section 17 of the Copyright Act, 1957

B.N. Firos’s arguments: B.N. Firos argued that the copyright of the software vested exclusively with it and the notification was taking away its said rights

Kerala’s argument: The State of Kerala argued that the copyright of the software vested with the State government and in any case, it had the right to declare any computer system as a protected system

Issue: Whether any computer system could be declared as a ‘protected system’ under Section 70 of the I.T. Act, even in violation of the Copyright Act?

Judgment: The Hon’ble Supreme court held that:

  1. Only government works as defined in Section 2(k) of the Copyright Act could be declared as protected systems and only those systems can be protected which are very important for the functioning of the state.
  2. The power of the government to declare a computer system as a protected system was not unlimited and the provisions of IT Act and Copyright Act have to interpret harmoniously.
  3. As per the MOU signed between the State of Kerala and B.N. Firos the copyright of the software belonged to the State of Kerala.

Significance:  The Hon’ble Supreme Court has resolved the possible conflict between the rights of the owner of a computer system and the power of the government to declare such a system as a ‘protected system’ in the IT Act. It has in this way balanced the interests of the government in protecting critical computer infrastructure and those of individuals who design unique computer systems in collaboration with the government.



Blog Intellectual Property Law

Role of IP in E-Commerce

By: Syeda Fauzia


What are Intellectual property Rights?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) would refer to anything and everything that is the conception of the human mind which creates an exclusive right bestowed upon the person over the creations of their intellect. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “intellectual property is an intangible property as a result of human creativity.” Intellectual Property is of various kinds, few significant ones being Copyrights, Trademark and Patents. IPR also include inventions of a product or process, a start-up business, creating new music or lyrics of a song and many more.

What is E-Commerce? 

Electronic Commerce or E-Commerce as simply told is where commercial transactions are conducted through online mode. These would include conducting or establishing businesses, exchanging goods and services or both primarily over the internet. Examples For E-commerce would include platforms such as: Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato and so forth.

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How are IPR and E-commerce interlinked? Let’s find out!

In today’s world, economies are constantly growing and changing. Internet as such plays a vital role in the development of the same. That being the case, it is necessary to understand that IPR plays a crucial role in the process of conducting e-commerce business and its impact in the virtual world. It is necessary to keep a tab on E-commerce along with the technology infrastructure in such a manner that the value of the intellectual property is not disregarded. It is crucial than ever that there needs to be a constant process of improvement in this technicality of internet access.

The methodology to understand the role of Intellectual Property in E-commerce is based on certain aspects. They are:

  1. Protection of business

IPR plays an important role in safeguarding the core business interest of a company including all its affiliates/subsidiaries, its domain in the corporate world. More fully against unfair competition amongst the businesses. In case there is no application of IPR or the IPR laws are not abided by, it will lead to severe violations of IPR and the consequences will surely affect the goodwill of a Company. That means to say that IPR plays a significant role in the digital economy. Without IPR in place, anything and everything can be pilfered. It may extend from design to software. The Owners may be perplexed by such duplication and stealing and then the same being floated over the virtual domain. The Owners will never be recognized for their unique innovations.

  1. Safeguarding the ownership of the factors involved in the business development.

There would be several factors that enable a company to be structured and with Intellectual Property law in place, especially for the e-commerce transactions helps to safeguard the digital and technical components which are critical to the company. For instance, there can be software that is connected to networks/routers, software designs, software programs, HTML codes etc. All these factors may be available in different forms and may contain an intellectual property right that not only needs to be protected but to be continued to be protected. This will enable E-commerce to run efficiently and smoothly. Thus, the IPR coated E-commerce safeguards these important factors which are essentially the enablers.

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  1. Protection of IPR

Every E-Commerce business recognizes IPR on all such creations/innovations especially the patents, copyrights, marks and trade secrets. A product that is developed by a company or an individual and commercializing the product involves the development of a variety of technologies so as to protect the product in the public domain. In such cases, the companies/individuals turn up to technology providers who will enter into licensing Agreements wherein certain rights are given for a certain period of time and for a specific purpose. The License Agreement facilitates the owner of the product to safeguard his intellectual property rights in his products by way of acceptance of the owner’s standard terms and conditions wherein the IPR protection is deemed a material term of the contract.

  1. Preservation of patent portfolios and trademarks

If a business has to capture the market in the e-commerce arena, IPR creation becomes an impeccable asset to the Company. The Company will own the portfolio of such intellectual property eg: by Patent or trademark registration. This enhances the company’s credibility and of course will lead to significant development in the company’s financial position as the online business world catches the company that shows their business in the light of the preservation of their patent portfolios and trademarks.

IPR and E-Commerce

Several Companies believe in the fact that their intellectual properties are worthy to a great extent such that the protection of the tangible assets owned maybe a secondary priority. This is very much true in the global market and with the recent happening of online businesses because the intellectual property rights and the law that exists with regard to the same enables the companies from keeping their trade secrets protected and disallows any unfair competition.

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IPR plays an important role in E-commerce in today’s digital economy. The laws that govern the IPR has brought businesses globally to function by supporting new creations but also guarding the tedious inputs that are gone into by the creator of such intellectual property. The laws pertaining to Intellectual Property Rights allows the law to block others from stealing the Intellectual property of the owner. So that there is no impact on the financial position of the inventor and their struggle in bringing the goodwill in the b2b market which is available in the electronic network.

Fundamentals of IPR in e-commerce:

E-Commerce is a great enabler of a business. However, it is the owner who is solely responsible for protecting intellectual property rights. If the owner while revealing the intellectual property to the public or in any media through E-commerce fails to protect it beforehand. This becomes fatal and gives scope for the others to use the owner’s intellectual property unfairly much before filing for its protection. There may not be any legal solution that the owner can adapt and also leaving the culprits to walk away freely with no reprimand whatsoever. No trade secrets can be protected once it is in the public domain. The owner loses all his rights against the virtual world. Eg secrets of a Software algorithm if shared, then such software algorithms cannot be protected.

Breach of Intellectual property

Any website that involves transactions that are mostly buying or selling online is a part of E-commerce websites. Companies while doing e-business may knowingly or unknowingly tend to violate the intellectual property rights by displaying the images, designs or even products of other companies. The most common example is that of Chinese products that look similar but are just a duplication of the original product. Such companies should carefully ensure that they do their due diligence effectively to avoid any infringements of the owner’s intellectual property rights and also that they do not violate the laws that protect the intellectual property in the country of origin of the product.  They should be able to show that the sale is on an original development and that the intellectual property owner is well aware and there is permission to sell in the online platform.

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Protection of IPR under E-commerce

IPR in retail and e-commerce deals with buying and selling products through a physical shop and a website, respectively[1]. In retail also a owner needs to protect his intellectual property rights. Iit is no different that is for E-commerce and should various types of intellectual properties. The following states the usual IPR in E-commerce.

Various patent models protects E-commerce like search engines etc. Patent Law or the Copyrights Act depend from country to country and their IPR laws may be divergent in application. Eg. A website design protected by copyright law. The copyright protection is available under the copyright law for the graphics, designs, materials, audio or video clippings, photographs etc. Therefore the companies in e commerce world can protect their database under such copyright laws as applicable in their specific country.

Protection of brands:

Features that are posted on their application and/or their websites under the Trademark Law. the Intellectual Property Rights also encompasses protection of webpages, displays that are computer-generated, graphics, graphical user interfaces. This may also be protected under at the Industrial Design Laws as per the applicability in their respective country.

There would be certain websites which will have hidden characteristics like graphics that are confidential in nature, source codes, flow charts, data structure, algorithms, various technical descriptions, manuals, contents etc to name a few, are entirely protected under various Trade Secret Laws and opens up the various other laws in protection of such intellectual property rights.

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In today’s world there is no denying of the fact that achievement of fair and ethical compliance of online businesses and practices cannot be accomplished without the effective use of Intellectual Property Laws. The society is more relying on e commerce and not only the E- businesses development wherein the retail activity is drastically reduced. Like the pandemic struck economy wherein the E-commerce led to significant growth in the virtual market. Making it more diverse and dynamic approach of online platforms.

As the growth of online business expands the Intellectual Property Rights facilitates the companies to protect and monitor their trade activities that are especially to maintain secrecy. IP rights in e-commerce also allow IPR owners to claim a share of the company’s profits. The Implementation of intellectual property rights will focus on the features that are exclusive and are unavailable to others and thus making the implementation of E-Commerce activity in the public domain successfully. The Legal protection of intellectual property rights brings in sturdiness in the usage of intellectual property which helps in not only in licensing, contracting, outsourcing but also helps in building strategic relationships, developing new concepts which in return enhances the sales and E-Commerce business by bringing in features that are unavailable to its competitors. This enables a healthy competition in the internet world and bringing in profits to the right owners of the intellectual property. Therefore Intellectual property stands as a guard to the E-Commerce and enhances fair play in the economy while adopting right measures of protection if Intellectual Property Rights.

 [1] What’s the Role of Intellectual Property in Ecommerce? (


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The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of University of Oxford and Ors.Vs. Rameshwari Photocopy Services and Ors

Delhi High Court

Judges: Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Yogesh Khanna

Applicable law: Section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957

Did you know: A reproduction of a copyrighted work by a teacher or pupil in the course of instruction is allowed and is not an infringement of the copyright

Where it all began:

  1. University and Photocopy Shop were photocopying excerpts from the publications of the plaintiffs and were issuing/selling the said compilations in the form of course packs
  2. The world famous publishers alleged that such publication and sale constituted a copyright infringement and filed a case to require the University of Delhi and the photocopy shop to obtain a license.
  3. The Hon’ble single bench of the Delhi High Court dismissed the suit and an appeal was filed by the publishers before the division bench.

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Legal issue: Whether the right to reproduce work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction is absolute or there are any conditions attached to such a right?

Publisher’s arguments: There are restrictions of fair use that apply to reproduction of materials by teachers and pupils and a license is necessary

University’s arguments: There are no restrictions that apply to the right of reproduction ad no infringement has occurred in this case.

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Judgment in the case:

  1. The court held that it only has to be seen is whether the work used was necessary for achieving the purpose of educational instruction- if it is there will be no infringement
  2. There is no adverse impact on the market of the books because the students still have access to the books in the library.
  3. It was held that the phrase ‘course of instruction’ used in the section will not be limited to just teaching in the classroom but will also apply to the entire program of education
  4. Because the university was not engaged in profit-making the activitiy could not be termed a publication.
  5. The appeal was dismissed and it was held that the preparation and distribution of the course packs was permitted and not an infringement of copyright. The case was sent back to the Single Bench for decision on the question whether whether the course packs were necessary for the educational instruction or not. The suit was finally withdrawn by the publishers

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The judgment in the case is hailed as a big victory for promoting the access to education. Many writers and academicians, many of whom were infact associated with the publishers, from all over the world condemned the filing of this suit and asked the publishers to withdraw it.

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Artificial Intelligence and Copyright Protection of Computer-Generated Works

Copyright is a type of intellectual property which provides the exclusive right to the owner to make copies of a creative work, either artistic, literary, dramatic, musical or otherwise. The creator of such creative work, or “author” has the exclusive commercial rights over the work.

Artificial intelligence has great significance in the realm of creative work. Recent successes have demonstrated that AI can independently learn how to perform tasks, prove mathematical theorems, and engage in artistic endeavors such as writing original poetry and music, and painting original works. AI with and sometimes without human assistance is also able to create artistic or innovative works. Therefore, such interplay of AI with the creation of creative work raises certain concerns in the field of copyright law.

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Before understanding the specific issues pertaining to copyright protection of AI generated work, it is pertinent to understand the difference between AI code and AI’s work product. AI code relates to the computer program or algorithm or the source code per se which constitutes AI. This code is what the programmer inputs into an AI. Such code is provided protection under copyright laws of various jurisdictions as TRIPS agreement provides that “Computer programs, whether in source or object code, shall be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention (1971)”[1]. Therefore, the programmer, or the person/entity which buys such AI from the programmer, is considered as the owner of such AI and enjoys the fruits out of copyright protection. On the other hand, AI’s work product relates to the creative product created by the AI. The major legal issue concerns the copyright protection provided to the work created by AI, either with or without human interference.

As discussed above, the AI’s creative work product can further be bifurcated into two categories, one where there is no human intervention, and the other where the programmer has minimal input into the final product. The legal issue pertains to whether in the former situation, the AI can be given authorship over the creative product, and in the latter situation, whether AI can be considered as a co-author of the creative work.

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With respect to the first issue, the jurisprudence developed in different jurisdictions clarify the situation as they unanimously believe that the creative works generated solely by AI are not copyrightable, if such creation does not involve any input or intervention by a human author.

In the United States of America, human authorship is the basic requirement as the Copyright Office reinforced the decision in New Idea Farm. Equip Corp. v. Sperry Corp[2] by holding that it will not register works produced by a machine or mechanical process if there has been no creative input or intervention from a human. Further, in Naruto v Slater[3], the court has opined that a non-human cannot hold copyright and hence cannot sue for infringement of copyright.

In the United Kingdom, the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988 provides that the author of any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work created by a computer is the person that made the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work undertaken[4]. A computer-generated work has further been defined by the Act as “work generated by computers without any human author of the work[5].

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India also adopted a similar approach under Section 2(d) of the Copyright Act, 1957 by providing that “in relation to any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the person who causes the work to be created.”[6] However, it does not contain any explicit exclusion of interference from human author for computer-generated works.

Therefore, the copyright law regime of different jurisdictions expressly mention that the author of a computer-generated work is the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.[7] Therefore, intervention by a human is necessary to render the output of an AI copyrightable.

Therefore, AI cannot be an author of the creative work. However, if we take this proposition into consideration, then the next issue arises as to who would be an author of the work created by AI if no human intervention takes place in the process of such creation?

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Let us consider a situation wherein an AI creates an artistic work without any human intervention and this work is infringing the right of another author of same/similar work. Even though work created by AI without any human intervention is not given copyright protection, however, does it imply that others also lose their right to sue for copyright infringement? To resolve such conflicts and the issue of liability arising out of the works created by AI, it is imperative to understand who should be considered the author of the work created by AI, without human involvement.

A possible solution to this issue is the doctrine of principal-agent relationship. If AI is considered as a mere agent of the person (human) who has a control over it, the issue of liability will be resolved. Also, since AI is created by a programmer and it functions according to the algorithms which have been programmed into it by the programmer, such programmer can be considered a principal, and AI be considered as its agent, as AI performs the specific tasks for which it is programmed. In the course of such performance, if the AI creates a creative work, the principal i.e. the programmer can benefit out of such creation, and also be considered liable, in case of any infringement (as principal is vicariously liable for the acts of agents). Further, though compensation is considered an important factor in the principal-agent relationship, and AI cannot be “paid” by the programmer in practical sense, the AI can be considered as a gratuitous agent as a gratuitous agent acts without a right to compensation from the principal. Furthermore, the gratuitous agent owes the same duties of care and loyalty that it would otherwise owe the principal as if it were a standard agent.

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If the AI is sold by the programmer to a third person/entity, such person/entity becomes the principal and enjoys the benefits and the burdens arising out of the creation of AI.

Therefore, although the copyright law regime globally necessitates human involvement or interference for protection of a creative work, the work generated by AI without such human interference should be given protection because firstly, it would provide incentive for further creations of such nature and secondly, it would provide a remedy to the party whose rights have been infringed by the creative work of AI. Thus, the principle of principal-agent relationship between the programmer and the AI can help in addressing these lacunas.


[1] Supra note 3.

[2] Supra note 7.

[3] Naruto v. Slater, 2018 WL 1902414.

[4] The Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988, s. 9(3) (United Kingdom).

[5] The Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988, s. 178 (United Kingdom).

[6] The Copyright Act, 1957, s. 2(d) (India).

[7] Ireland, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, and India.

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Artificial Intelligence and the Patent Regime

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) defines intellectual property (IP) as a creation of the mind. Patent, is a type of IP, provides an incentive to individuals to invent and innovate. The patent holder/owner is given exclusive right to make, use, sell and export an invention for a specific period of time.

With the advent of technology, and artificial technology (referred to as AI hereafter) per se, the world has seen a substantial increase in the number of inventions and technologies, created with the help of AI, owing to its potential to increase productivity and efficiency, as compared to its human counterpart. This is apparent from the fact that between 2010 and 2016, there was a fivefold increase in the number of patent applications relating to AI techniques as compared to scientific publications by tech giants like IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi, Panasonic, Samsung, Siemens etc.[1]

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The interplay between AI and patent law has two implications, the first one relates to the patentability of AI itself, and the second one relates to the patentability of inventions created by the use of AI.

The issue of patentability of Artificial Intelligence

Generally, patentability of any invention is subject to certain conditions, which include novelty, industrial application and patentable subject matter. Certain jurisdictions completely prohibit patenting computer programme or algorithms[2] because they come under the exclusive domain of copyright protection[3]. However, in other jurisdictions, software and computer programmes are patentable, but only if they fulfil specific conditions. For example, in China, software invention needs to fulfil the technicality requirement[4]. Similarly, in the United States of America, traditionally patent protection was not provided to software as they were considered abstract ideas, which was outside the purview of USA’s patentable subject matter under the Patent Act, 1977. However, this bar against patenting software was removed by the Court in Alice v. CLS Bank[5] which held that abstract idea implemented on a generic computer may not be patented, but, if the software in question improves “computer functionality” (i.e. improves computing speeds or reduces the number of computing resources required), or performs the computing tasks in an unconventional way, then it may be patentable.

Therefore, it can be seen that the issue of patentability of AI per se differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, wherein few nations are more willing to provide patent protection to certain types of software, while others continue to bring it under the exclusive domain of copyright protection.

The issue of patentability of inventions created by artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, in the past decades, has played a major role in assisting humans by performing certain specific tasks, assigned to them, by means of algorithms set by humans. This process also inculcates the use of AI in creating innovations and inventions. However, the way in which AI aids in the creation of such invention, differs. Broadly, there are three ways in which AI can play a role in creating inventions. At one end, AI could simply act as a tool in assisting a human inventor without contributing to the conception of an invention. On the opposite side of the spectrum, as AI is not bound by the limits drawn to it, it could autonomously generate outputs that would be patentable inventions, if created by a human. Alternatively, AI could also fall in between these two extreme ends, for example, it could be used to generate several possible solutions under the guidance of humans who define the problems and select successful solutions.

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The legal regime governing the patent system in different jurisdictions highlight that there is no bar to granting a patent for an invention created or generated by an AI. However, such invention would nevertheless have to satisfy the statutory requirements for being eligible for patentability i.e. novelty, industrial application and patentable subject matter. However, the issue arises at the time of filing a patent application.

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Before understanding the issue, it is important to understand the concept of inventorship and ownership. Inventorship is determined by “conception, or the formation in the mind of the inventor of a definite and permanent idea of the complete and operative invention.”[6] Ownership, on the other hand, lies with someone who exploits the commercial benefits arising out of such invention. Further, patent ownership is generally tied to inventorship, unless another entity has a superior right, such as through employment or contract. Therefore, since the invention is a creation of the mind, and encompasses certain rights and liabilities, all the jurisdictions around the world unanimously agree to the fact that an inventor can only be a natural person/s and not even an artificial person. Further, with respect to ownership, it is considered that both a natural person and an artificial person, like a company, can have ownership rights over the invention.

Taking into account the developments in the field of AI which now enable it to autonomously generate new inventions, serious concerns can be raised about whether AI can be termed as an “inventor”. Recently, both Google and Facebook have seen their respective Al systems develop new languages to perform the assigned tasks, eschewing known human languages in favour of a more efficient one.

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Let us consider the situation where an invention is generated autonomously by an AI (the one side of the spectrum). If such AI is considered the inventor, then by virtue of being an inventor and not being bound by a formal contract of employment, it also becomes the owner of such invention and possesses the rights to sell its invention to other natural persons/companies for profits. However, does AI has the capacity to negotiate terms for commercial purposes and provide consent for such transactions. It should also be borne in mind that the entire premise of the patent is based on the very idea of commercial exploitation of invention for a limited period of time. This provides an incentive for innovation and inventions. Therefore, if the idea of commercial exploitation is subtracted from patent, what remains is charity, and charity does not drive investments into further inventions by the use of AI. This is the very reason why the courts in different jurisdictions are reluctant in interpreting “inventor” as to include AI[7]. Such a step would create a lacuna with respect to firstly, the practical implications of such step, secondly, the idea of incentive under the patent regime and lastly, the issue of attributing rights to AI and liability, in case of any dispute. This situation is beautifully highlighted by the recent case[8] wherein Stephen Thaler applied to the patent offices of the United Kingdom, Europe and the U.S.A. for patentability of an invention invented by the AI machine “DABUS”. Mr. Thaler mentioned “DABUS” in place of the name of the inventor and his name in place of the name of the owner. The patent offices of these jurisdictions rejected this application on the ground that an AI cannot be an inventor as the statutory requirements mandate inventor to be a natural person, and that AI can neither be employed (as Mr Thaler mentioned himself as owner stating that DABUS is his property), nor hold intellectual property rights. Therefore, the situation with respect to the patentability of inventions created solely by AI is clear, i.e. AI cannot be an inventor under the law.

When we consider the situation wherein AI acts just as a tool or plays a more active role in the process of innovation and invention, certain scholars believe that AI could be considered as a co-inventor. However, mentioning the name of an AI as an inventor in the patent application would also be futile as the courts have come to the conclusion that only a natural person can be an inventor.

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However, having said that AI cannot be considered as an inventor, it does not imply that the creation of AI cannot be patented. To address this issue, one of the theories propose that the owner of the AI which created an invention should be considered as the inventor of the inventions created by AI which it owns. However, such patentability would still be subject to the statutory requirements of different jurisdictions. This theory implies that AI is just a mere tool or machine which aids humans to perform specific functions. Since the actions of the AI are prompted by humans, such humans should be considered the real “mind” behind any innovation created by such AI, while performing its functions. This theory seems to work perfectly well as it solves the issue of the inventor being a natural person, the issue of attributing liability, and the issue of negotiating for commercial purposes. This would also imply an increase in investment in AI for creating more of such inventions, in which the owner of such AI is considered the inventor of such invention.

[1] Pankaj Soni, How Is the Patent World Responding to the AI Revolution, 281 MANAGING INTELL. PROP. 48 (2019).

[2] Like Indian Patent Act, 1970, s. 3(k).

[3] Trade related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Art. 10 [Source or object code, shall be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention (1971)].

[4] PATSNAP, (last visited Jan. 29, 2021).

[5] Alice v. CLS Bank Int’l, 573 U.S. 208, 225-26 (2014) [Holding that “the abstract idea implemented on a generic computer” may not be patented]

[6] Townsend v. Smith, 36 F.2d 292, 295; Hybritech Inc. v. Monoclonal antibodies inc., 802 F. 2d 1367, 1376.

[7] New Idea Farm. Equip Corp. v. Sperry Corp., 916 F.2d 1561 (Fed. Cir. 1990) [The court stated that only people conceive ideas and not machines].

[8] Stephen L Thaler v. The Comptroller-General of Patents, Design and Trade Marks, [2020] EWHC 2412 (Pat).

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Role of IP in the Media Industry

By: Ilakkiya Kamaraj


“Is there anyone who hates entertainment?” The media has never stopped entertaining us. It plays an important role in our lives from fascinating us through films to feeding our brains with up to date information about the happenings in the world. From one corner of the world, we can know the happenings of another part of the world through media. That too in this internet world we can access each and every information or watch films through phones anywhere and everywhere. Media is such a wide area which plays an important role in our lives needs a sort of protection for the work of its people’s work. Such protection can be given to media by Intellectual property. Intellectual property protection is used in various fields. In this paper, we are going to see how IP’s role is important in protecting the works of media.

Intellectual property:

The ownership of any creation of the mind or ideas or designs by a person is known as Intellectual property. IP can be categorized into many types but the most widely used IP are patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

  • A right granted to a person for his/ her invention is called a patent. It prevents usage of one’s invention by others illegally. The inventor can sell, use, distribute, create, import or export their invention for over 20 years once his/ her work is patented.

“A person has an entitlement to an invention if that person’s contribution, either solely or jointly with others, had a material effect on the final concept of the invention”.[1]

  • Protection of logos and brand names used on various goods and services is known as a trademark.
  • Copyright is used to protect creators artistic works such as music, films, paintings, technical drawings, computer programs etc.,
  • Any secrets related to a company’s business protected, to avoid its accessible by its competitors is referred to as trade secret.

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Intellectual property is very important for protecting one’s innovation. If IP is not in use there are high chances for many individuals and businesses to lose their rights to their innovation.


The storage and delivery of information or data through various modes like radio, television, mobile phones, magazines, newspapers, internet etc., are referred to as media. The information is disseminated as films, news, music, promotional messages etc., Since media consists of artistic work from one’s own knowledge, an individual must protect his/ her work through media. There is how IP plays a very important role in protecting the works of media.

IP’s role in media industry:

We all love movies! But to make a scene and combine it into a movie involves many various complicated works. From making movies to shaping every stage of the filmmaking process Intellectual property rights play a vital role.

  1. Copyright in media:

As copyright protects the artistic ideas of individuals it is considered as the lifeblood for media. Copyright guarantees the protection of creative minds without affecting the creation of new media and protects the creators work from the usage of others without their permission. The copyright of the original material is mandatory nowadays, as a lot of competition has emerged in the entertainment industry.

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  • A public record of the work is registered.
  • Provides with economic benefits such as broadcasting the work, making copies etc.,
  • Filing a lawsuit and taking legal action is enabled when copyright is registered. Legal evidence of one’s own can be obtained.

Passing the rights of one’s work is allowed and one can change the form of his/her work.[2]

  1. Trademark in the media industry:

Any symbol, design, word or phrase that differentiates the goods of one company from others is referred to as a trademark. In media, a trademark is used to protect a movie’s brand or merchandise in connection to it. In media trademark law protects every title of a movie, album, music, famous characters etc., For instance, Disney has its own logo, the same goes for Pixar, discovery and many other channels as its logo to stand out from the crowd in the market. Similarly, movie titles like star wars, harry potter can also be protected using the trademark.[3]


  • The exclusive right of the trade can be enjoyed by the owner.
  • There will be no infringement.
  • Big brand names act as a magnet and attract young minds.


Character merchandising is one of the ways to generate income. In a case where the unauthorised sale of dolls resembling a famous pop singer without their permission injunction was granted for the tort of passing off by the Delhi High Court to the third party.[4]

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  • Patent in media industry:

Just like trademark and copyrights patent also plays an important role in media. Making the film is not an easy task. It needs funding and substantial efforts. It involves lighting, sound effects, editing, special effects etc., Patent is used to protect the innovation of a person which is considered as the eye of filmmaking. By patenting, third parties are excluded from using or selling another person’s product without permission.


  • Restricting the competition in regards to a particular invention.
  • Inventor’s monopoly is been safeguarded with patent registration.
  • The inventor has the right of royalty when he decides to license his product.
  • Patent registration helps in start-ups and small business entities.
  • The credibility of the company in the market increases through patent registration.
  • In media to begin an industry patent registration is necessary.

Laws protecting IP in the media industry:

Therefore copyright, patent and trademark act as a shield for the media industry. Recognition of the rights of the creators and protection against infringement of content are guaranteed through copyright. Whereas the key characters of a film, movie titles and other related elements are protected through trademark. Though there are IP rights for protection, violation of IP rights, trademark and copyright are being infringed as the media industry expands.

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India being a signatory of the TRIPS agreement and other International IP treaties helps in avoidance of misuse and protection of IP. There are certain laws in India in order to prevent such misuse in the media and entertainment industry. They are.,

  • The Copyright Act, 1957
  • The Trademark Act, 1999
  1. The Copyright act, 1957:
  • Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957 defines copyright as the right given over a work to do or to authorise to do that work.
  • If the own work of any individual is been infringed in India then the person who infringed would be punished under section 63 of the copyright act, 1957. If a suit is pending before the civil court then the criminal court cannot give a finding on the infringement of copyright.[5]
  • The Bombay High Court held that the act of the infringer will be preposterous if he attributed infringement without knowing that owner of the copyright has registered under section 44 of the Act.[6]

De minimis infringement:

The principle of “de minimis non-curat lex” that is “the law does not concern itself with trifles” applies to copyright. A court has the authority to apply the de minimus principle in a lawsuit if it is of trivial matter. For instance, the De minimus doctrine is used in music sampling where a music w is modified by sound engineers from a small portion of music work and incorporated in new musical work.[7]

In the case of the India Independent News v Yashraj Films Pvt Ltd[8]., the doctrine of De minimus was applied to decide copyright infringement where parts of popular songs were played in a singer’s interview who appeared on a television chat show. It was held that it was not actionable as the alleged infringement was deemed de minimus.

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  1. The Trademark Act, 1999:

Under the trademark act, the name of songs, music albums, movie titles and their famous characters are being protected.


There are few conditions for the protection of titles and symbols under the trademark act. They are;

  • There must be originality of titles and phrases. Titles should be unique; if not the general ones will not be protected under trademark.
  • Single film titles will not be trademarked. Series of films such as harry potter, Narnia and series like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, money heist etc., can be protected under trademark.

Social media and IP:

The Internet has grown so fast with the evolution of time. In the early days, there was only a television mode of media. And therefore the risk of infringement has been less. There are plenty of content creators on online platforms nowadays. For example youtube. Online platforms also follow strict policies such as copyright verification programs, copyright strikes etc.,

The Bombay High Court held in the case of the Marico Limited v Abhijeet Bhansali[9], that the suit constituted by the defendant cannot be taken into legal action has his video was just his opinion.

Rights of celebrities:

Celebrities’ images are used without their knowledge and have been misused. Both copyright and trademark act protect celebrity rights in India. In addition to these, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also tries to protect celebrity rights.

Under copyright act sections 38 and 39 covers celebrity rights.

Section 38 of the copyright act- the performer’s right is provided to any performer concerning his performance for fifty years.

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Section 39 of the copyright act- a person will be held liable for infringement if he takes the recording of the performance of the performer without his consent.


IP plays a major role in keeping the media industry running smoothly without any problem. Movies are protected through IP. Everything we experience, hear or see-through media is covered by IP. Intellectual property and media should go hand in hand. If IP is not there media would have been at high risk. Everything from television serials to Netflix series involves huge funds and labour of various people such as cameraman, director, producer, screenwriter, actors etc. Therefore protection of such work from infringement is mandatory. Such a role of protection can be given only by Intellectual property. Therefore intellectual property plays a very important and dominant role in the media industry.

[1] Row Weeder Pty Ltd. v. Nielsen, 39 IPR 400 (1997).

[3]CS Prachi Prajapati, Advantages Of Registering Trademark, LEGAL WIZ (Jul. 31, 2017, 11:15 AM),

[4] DM entertainment v. Baby Gift House, MANU/DE/2043/2010.

[5] Cheran P Joseph v. K. Prabhakaran Nair, 1517 CriLJ  (1967).

[6] Dhiraj Dharamdas v. M/s Sonal Info Systems Pvt Ltd, 3 MhLJ 888 (2012).

[7] De Minimus Use, USLEGAL (Aug. 25, 2019, 09:30 AM),

[8]  53 PTC 586 (2013).

[9] 1094 COMIP 596 (2019).

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How to file a Patent in India?

By: Ayushee Subhadarshini

As it is said an invention is not your own until it is patented- so what is patent? How do we patent our invention? The simple answer to this is patent is the Exclusive legal right given to the inventor so as to protect its invention. we may say that it is a form of intellectual property. Basically, it is a title given to the owner of the invention for a certain time period which protects and secures the invention from any third party interference. In order to get a patent the inventor in return has to disclose all the information of the product, method, process, research etc of the invention.

Patents can be a three types- utility patent, design patent and plant patent. In utility patent the invention may be a product or process and it can be patented for up to 20 years .For example, engines of automobiles. Design patent it is a kind of registration in which the appearance of a particular design is patented it may be extended for up to 15 years. For example, logo of a brand (Note- design patent only count for appearance and not any functional aspect) .Plant patent is not found in India. In this if a farmer crossbreeds and produces a new variety of plant it may be patented.

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A big question arises on what can be patented- first a process or method can be patented .a new process which may be short, more efficient and user-friendly, which may give good quality products can be patented. Second a composition can also be patented like combination of certain substances or an active ingredient with other substances or mixture of certain elements or chemicals or substances. Therefore any useful composition is patentable. The third one is research .a research on some product process or approach can also be patented because this research might be used while making a product so it is patentable.

There are certain criteria which are needed for patenting. The invention must be new or novel. it should be of total originality ,it should not be found anywhere in the world .it should be an inventive step .either it may have some Technical Advancement some economic significance or both etc. it should be an inventive product the product; should be capable of industrial application in essence it should be fit for use in industries.

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Now there are inventions which cannot be patented.[1] Section 3 and 4 of Indian Patent Act 1970 lists out non patentable subject matter like scientific discoveries ,living beings ,plants ,animals ,organisms, new form of known substances ,mere addictive combination, traditional knowledge ,business methods ,mathematical methods and atomic energy etc.

There are certain procedures which are needed to be followed for getting a patent granted:

First the complete concept or idea of the invention should be written down in detail. it should include what is the invention or Idea, its working mechanism, how the invention helps in solving a problem ,the field of the invention, advantages of it ,elements or objects or composition involved in it ,any competitors of the invention etc.

If the invention includes research then the lab record should also be included. Visual illustrations play an important role- so sketches drawings, charts; diagrams should be designed to explain the working mechanism of the invention. As we know that all inventions cannot be patented so checking upon patentability is a very important step.

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Second step includes the drafting of patent application. as we know that a patent has both technical and legal aspects, for drafting a patent application it requires a lot of skills and practice .filing it on own would be a huge mistake as it might cause hindrance in the opportunity. this being the most crucial step requires a good patent agent or an attorney who will not only file the application but would stay and supervisor in the whole process like till the commercialization phase where the real money comes in by providing license or by selling the patent rights .this step costs depending on the fees of patent attorney or agent and it may require a time period of 8 to 15 working days.

After the drafting and reviewing of application by the inventor the patent is filed in a government office where a receipt is generated with an application number. there are three types of applications which can be filed in the patent office- the first one is the provisional application which is filed at an early stage of the research or development of the invention, it secures the filing date, 12 months is provided for giving the complete specifications and it is low in cost .the complete patent application is drafted when all the necessities and specifications required are available to file a patent. The international patent application provides protection to patent rights outside the country as well because as we know that patents are territorial in nature it can only be secured inside the country.

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Fourth step includes an examination request where an examiner is appointed by the controller to review the patent application only after receiving the request for examination .The examination report is generated after the review .it is a kind of prosecution where the patent application is prosecuted at every step before the grant of patent.

Fifth step includes the response to the objections. Mainly patent applications receive some or the other kind of objection in the examination report .the patent agent or attorney may give a written response to the objections raised. After analyzing it, if the objection is still not resolved then a meeting or communication of any kind is set up between the inventor with the examiner in the presence of attorney to clear up the objection.

In the sixth step the application is placed in order for grant. Once it meets all the patents criteria and is cleared of any hindrance the patent is granted.

There are certain advantages of filing a patent:

  • A patent certainly gives protection to the invention and stops others from copying it.
  • It also helps to protect it from competition at early stages of invention.
  • It can also be used as a source of revenue by selling the patent rights or by providing license one can collect royalties from it.
  • A premium can also be charged for an invention because it is unique and no one else’s making it.
  • It gives more credit profit to an inventor and their company as well.

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Being advantageous at times there are also certain disadvantages of a patent:

  • Makes the invention a public record i.e., information of it is publicly available .rather than keeping it a secret may help to stay afar from competitors.
  • Applying for a patent is time consuming during which the certain invention may become outdated.
  • For filing an application ,patent agent or attorney is required who charge heavy amount .putting money somewhere where the probability of getting the result is not a short is not a good move.
  • Patents are time specific -filing dates, Annual fees all must be checked accordingly or it may get cancelled anytime.
  • The territorial nature of patent provides service to exposure outside the country.

Landmark cases on Patent in India:

[2]Bajaj Auto Limited versus TVS Motors Company – in this case the defendants infringed the patent which concerns the invention of the technology of improved internal combustion engines of the plaintiff.      This case is important as it also includes the doctrine of pith and substance.

[3]Novartis AG vs. Union of India- in this case Novartis filed patent application for its new version of cancer drug that is glivec. The case was regarding the filing of patent application for a new version of a known drug molecule. This is prohibited under Section 3(d) of Indian Patents Act, 1970. since the existing drugs patent has already expired the generic version which is also cheaper in cost is permissible for supply. so the application for leave it is rejected.

[4] F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. & Anr. v. Cipla Ltd-In this case the plaintiff filed a suit for injunction, for curbing infringement and for claiming damages .The defendant argued that the drug was for treatment of cancer and was a derivative of parent drug, the composition was same except for one alternative .This was upheld in the Supreme Court.

Section 118-124 of the Patents Act,1970 provides provisions of penalties.

Section 108 of the Patents Act,1970 provides provisions for relief.

                     Act                                                 Punishment

Contravention of secrecy provisions  relating to certain inventions Imprisonment up to 2years or fine or both
Falsification of entries in register,etc Imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both
Unauthorized claim of Patents  rights Fine up to 1-lakh rupees
Wrongful use of words “patent office” Imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both
Refusal or failure to supply information Fine up to 10-laks or imprisonment up to 6 months or both
Practice by non-registered patent agents Fine up to 1-lakh rupees, up to 5 lakhs in second offence.
Offence by companies Liable for proceedings, punished accordingly.





Mumbai The States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Chhattisgarh, the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli


Delhi The States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh





The States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and the Union Territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep.


Rest of India (States of Bihar, Jharkhand,

Orissa, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands)




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Patent filing may seem a long and complex process but one should always remember the importance of a patent. Patent would always ensure that no third party can claim your rights without permission and order. Legal bodies are always out there to help people when necessary. An intelligent approach matters the most while filing a patent. With technological and digital advancements patent filing may become easier day by day. Make in India has a real significance over patents. We should not only encourage inventions and grant them patent, it also signifies the product to work in India. This helps in building up of the economy. It helps in more turnover for businesses, more credibility and many more to it.

[1] Indian Patent Act 1970

[2] MIPR 2008 (1) 217

[3] (2007) 4MLJ 1153

[4] I.A 642/2008 in CS (OS) 89/2008

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The Exordium of Copyright System in UK

By: Himali Sylvester


 It has often been espoused that homo sapiens are inherently ‘possessive’ in nature. In other words, it could be said that human beings are born with the unique ability of ‘claiming’ possession over materials. It was not too long ago that the discourse of property and possession unfolded. The two erudite minds in the 17th century, Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke both discussed property in starkly different ways. Rousseau contemplated that the need for property is not an inherent human characteristic and that it is a product of ‘general will’ sanctioned by the State.[1] On the other hand, John Locke strongly condoned that those human beings in the state of nature are governed by human reasoning with a deep-seated need to assert control over what they believed to be their own.

Consequently, when this certain ‘own’ was taken away from an individual, she felt the need to protect it and therewith arose the concept of ‘right’. Such individual right received the consent of the community and became moral right and eventually, with the sanction of the state, such right transcended to become a legal right. For a large part of history however, the idea or notion of possession was confined to only tangible objects -to actual physical possession -to that which a man might pass from hand to hand. It is only in the dawn of history, with the palpable advent of literature and printer, that rights over intangible property came to be realised.

The Greeks

The Greek contribution to drama and literature cannot be undermined. One cannot help but be reminded of Homer and the rhapsodists who cannot ever fade from human memory. It must however, be prudently noted that rhapsodists published their poems by word of mouth and the spoken poem flew away with the voice of the speaker and lingered only in the memory. Even when the poems and proses were translated to writing, after paper made it possible to preserve the labours of the poet and the historian, these authors had not any thought of making money by multiplying copies of their works, yet. The dramatists in Rome felt quite content with the compensation they had received and thus, the question of rights over the theatrical performance did not particularly arise. At the time, there was a notable trend of transcribing drama into text and of making copies of popular proses. While authors complained about the mangled translations, they still hadn’t realised that wide-spread copying and transcription of their intellect was in some way a moral wrong. In fact, some authors considered it a matter of ‘honour’ to allow their literary labour to be widely circulated.


Advent of the Printing Press

It was only after Gutenberg had set up as a printer, that the possibility of definite profit from the sale of the works of the author became visible to the author. Until then authors had felt no sense of wrong. With the invention of printing, there was a chance of profit and as soon as the author saw that this profit diminished by an unauthorised reprint of her work, she felt conscious of the injury caused and thus, protested against it in as many ways as possible. With time, public will be inclined towards the authors and some sort protection was granted to them in the form of ‘copyrights’, by penalising ones that seek unauthorised copies of an author’s work.

The World Order

Traces of copyright grants can be seen in many European states, i.e the then divided continental Europe. The Senate of Venice issued an order, in 1469, that John of Spira should have the exclusive right for five years to print the epistles of Cicero and of Pliny[2]. This privilege was an exceptional exercise of the power of the sovereign state to protect the meritorious work of a worthy citizen. It granted only a limited protection for about two literary works. But it established a precedent. A precedent which has been carried down over centuries so much so that for four hundred years now, any book published in Venice is, by international conventions, protected from pillage for a period of at least fifty years.

In 1491, Venice gave Peter of Ravenna, and the publisher of his choice, the exclusive right to print and sell his Phamnix,3-the first recorded instance of a copyright awarded directly to an author. Germany issued its first copyright at Nuremberg in I501. France covered that privilege only for one edition of a book and if the book was sent for a next edition, a second patent had to be obtained.

Early Days of England

The King’s supremacy in England accorded certain privileges to authors and publicists that the sovereign considered sacred and important. In 1518, the King’s Printer by the name Richard Pynson, issued the first book cum privilegio. The book’s title page declared that no one else should print or import in England any other copies for two years. Further, in I530, a privilege for seven years was granted to John Palsgrave as commensuration for the value of his work and the time spent on it. This event has been noted as the first recognition of the nature of copyright as furnishing a reward to the author for his labor in England.

Wynkyn de Worde in the year 1533 procured the sovereign’s protection for the second edition of his book, Witintons Grammar. Ten years prior to that, the first edition of Worde’s book had been released which during the decade had again been reprinted by Peter Trevers without authorisation. Protesting against the despoilment, Worde in his subsequent editions vigorously condemned Trevers’ actions and on account of that, Worde applied and secured protection for his works. This is another notable example of copyrights unfolding in England.

Timeline of Statutory Development



Star Chamber Decree supporting copyright


Ordinance of the Commonwealth concerning licensing was pronounced. Copyright was subordinate to political objects.


Licensing Act

The Act enacted gives copyright coupled with license.


British Statute of Anne

First Copyright Act was enacted. Copyright to be for fourteen years, and if author then alive, for fourteen years more. Conjointly, the author possessed the power to regulate price


Copyright to be for twenty-eight years absolutely, and further for the life of the author, if alive


Fine Arts Copyright Act

Copyright to be for the life of the author and seven years longer, or for forty-two years, whichever term last expires.


The Copyright Act



Statutory Development

The Printers and Binders Act,1534, banned the import of foreign works and enabled the Lord Chancellor to limit the price of books. A charter was granted by Philip and Mary in 1556, intending to prevent the propagation of the Protestant Reformation. The Stationers’ Company received its Royal Charter which gave the company the power to decree who could print books. It also granted the company the right to seize illicit or pirated works[3]. Further censorship was introduced by Henry VIII who required that all books should be approved before publication.

In another instance, the famous ‘Decree of Star Chamber concerning printing’ issued in I637 set forth the following:

that no person or persons whatsoever shall at any time print or cause to be imprinted any book or pamphlet whatsoever, unless the same book or pamphlet, and also all and every the titles, epistles, prefaces, poems, preambles, introductions, tables, dedications and other matters and things whatsoever thereunto annexed, or therewith imprinted, shall be first lawfully licensed.’

  1. Licensing Act

The Licensing Act of 1662 conferred upon the company the right to sue for any infringement.

To bestow such a right, a register of licensed books was maintained wherein certain members were accorded the powers to search and seize books that were not licensed. Understandably, the Licensing Act could not operate for too long as it failed to distinguish between intellectual piracy and physical piracy.

  1. British Statute of Anne

With the enactment of the Statute of Anne, 1710, first time in British history, ‘copyright’ was statutorily recognised as a legal right. It afforded security and entitlement upon authors with the intention of promoting extensive learning.

Key requisites of the Act 

  1. As per the provisions of the Act, the Author of a book yet to be printed shall have the sole right printing for 14 years and if the author survives the 14 years, an additional 14 years of the aforesaid right shall be granted to him.
  2. Infringers must forfeit the infringing books found in their custody and shall be fined with half amount to be paid to the crown and the other half to the plaintiff.
  3. Only books entered for publication in the ‘Register Book’ of Stationer’s Company can be sued for infringement.


  1. Bach v. Longman[4]

Brief Facts – The case discussed on the issue of whether or not printed music fell within the purview of copyright protection as conferred by the Statute of Anne.

Ratio Decidendi- It was held by the Court that printed music fell perfectly within the scope of protection granted by the Statute of Anne.

  1. Gyles v. Wilcox[5]

Ratio Decidendi The doctrine of fair abridgement was propounded for the first time in UK history. The main discourse in the case revolved around whether or not an abridgement of copyright inherently constituted copyright infringement, or whether they could qualify as a separate, new or derivative work. The Justice ruled that abridgement fell under two categories:

  1. True abridgements
  2. Coloured shortenings

True abridgements include a genuine effort shown on the part of the editor to constitute a new work which is not intended to infringe upon the copyright of the original.

  1. Walter v. Lane

Brief Facts – Certain reporters working for The Times newspaper took down some notes during a series of speeches delivered by the Earl of Rosemary, a renowned politician.  The verbatim speeches were then transcribed and published in the newspaper, The Times.  Using these published speeches with verbatim quotes from the paper edition, the respondent published a book. The issue was whether journalists have copyrights.

Ratio decidendi – The court held that the reporters were authors under the Copyright Act 1842. The effort, skill and time that spent was sufficient to make them original. According to Lord Brampton, writing reports required considerable intellectual skill and labour beyond the mere mechanical operation of writing.

  1. Fine Arts Copyright Act and Copyrights Act

As the name suggests, the Fine Arts Copyrights Act extended the terms of copyright to fine arts as well. Fine arts would include music, dance, paintings etc. Successively, the Copyright Act of 1911 was passed which consolidated all protections with respect to the Berne Convention and the salient features of Act included:

  1. Extension of term of copyright to life and 50 years posthumously.
  2. The need to register in the ‘Register of Stationers’ to receive protection was done away with
  3. Work that remained unpublished is also entitled to protection
  4. The Act includes all forms of arts such as literature, painting, music, photography etc.

Current Regime

  1. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

Currently, copyrights in UK is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act enacted in 1988. For copyright to subsist the literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work must adhere to the ‘originality’ criterion. Obviously, such work should not be copied from another and must be produced based on individual skill, judgement and own work. Additionally, the work must be recorded in writing and must meet the UK qualification of nationality of the author or the requisite of ‘place of first publication’. The copyright should not have already expired.

It has often been said that the aforementioned statute provides a close list of works that can claim copyright. However, in the decision of Brompton Bicycle Ltd. v. Chedech[6] it was held that a close list may not always be efficacious in the protection and enforcement of copyright. In another landmark case of Express Newspapers v. News (UK) Ltd[7] , the precedent set in Walter v. Lane was upheld, reiterating that journalists are also authors. 

  1. Duration of Copyright Protection

 Terms of protection include:

  1. For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works for a period of the author’s life and 70 years after her/his death.
  2. For computer generated literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works copyrights subsists for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made.
  • In a film the copyright expires 70 years after the last date in the calendar year of the death of the principal director, the author of the screen play and the composer of music, if any in the movie.
  1. Copyright in a sound recording ends 50 years from the last day in the calendar year that it was published.
  2. Copyright in broadcast also subsists fro 50 years from the end of calendar year in which it was published.
  3. Copyright in the typographical arrangement of published edition expires at the end of 25 years from the end of calendar in which the edition was first published.

Landmark Case Law pertaining to a Current Discourse

Temple Island Collections Ltd v New English Teas Ltd[8]

Brief facts – The Claimant’s photograph was a picture of a bright red bus with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in black and white in the backdrop. Additionally, Westminster Bridge, and the river in black and white was present in the foreground. The Defendant used a similar photograph in their souvenir products, just that the picture was taken from a different angle. The claimants sued the defendants for infringement of copyrights.

Judgement – Judge Birss found that the Defendant’s photograph infringed the Claimant’s copyright in its photograph.

Discourse – The decision raised several questions in the legal fraternity and its potential impact on what is known as the stark difference between idea and expression. The English Courts have recognised a principle in copyright cases which embraces the idea that a line should be drawn between the idea behind a work, which tends not to be protected by copyright, and the expression of that idea, which can be protected.  It has often been contended by many commentators hat, in the aforementioned circumstance it was the idea that was similar and not the expression of it and hence, the defendants cannot be sued for copyright violation.


The copyright system adopted by UK dates back to a gradual development and evolution that took place over many centuries. The current system is an aggregate and consolidation of various principles, ideas and rules that evolved overtime to protect the intellectual labour of creative authors and it is no doubt that it was the English-speaking race that persevered for the first time to change the special privilege of copyright to a statutory right that today governs all ‘useful works of art’.


[1] Matt Schrage, Rousseau and Locke on property and state, MODERN POLITICAL THOUGHT (Apr. 17, 2021, 9:50 PM IST),

[2] Brander Matthews, The evolution of copyright, JSTOR (11-04-2021 21:48 UTC ),

[3] The UK Copyright Service, (last visited Apr.17, 2021).

[4] 2 Cowper 623 (1777).

[5] (1740) 26 ER 489.