Copyright in ‘Lightning McQueen’ from ‘Cars’ protected in India under the International Copyright Order

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Pratibha M. Singh,  J. allowed a suit filed by Disney Enterprises Inc. Against the defendants-chocolate maker for permanently restraining infringement of its copyright in the character Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars.

The plaintiff held copyright in the character Lightning McQueen, an animated race car from the movie named above, in the United States. The defendants were manufacturing chocolates by the name of Choco Car, consisting of an artistic work/character which was a complete imitation of Lightning McQueen. The plaintiff, therefore, filed the present writ suit seeking permanent injunction against the defendants and damages for infringement.

The High Court termed the case as a “classic case of character merchandising”. It was noted as well settled that characters can acquire the status of trademarks and can also be protected under copyright law. It was observed that the importance of preventing well-known characters from being misused for commercial products lies in the fact that the creation of fictional characters requires great amount of creativity and innovation. It was further observed that the plaintiff’s copyright was liable to be protected in India in view of the International Copyright Order as also India being a party to Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Universal Copyright Convention. Holding thus, the suit filed by the plaintiff was allowed and a decree of permanent injunction was passed against the defendants. The defendants were further ordered to pay Rs 5 lakhs as damages to the plaintiff. [Disney Enterprises Inc. v. Pankaj Aggarwal,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10166, dated 10-07-2018]

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