Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Pratibha M. Singh, J., while disposing of a suit challenging the use of a movie title, held that neither there was copyright nor the plaintiff was entitled to the action of passing off.
The plaintiff had registered the title Double Trouble for their punjabi movie. The title was not used as of this day by the plaintiff. Meanwhile, the defendant — Mukta Arts Ltd. — adopted the same title and released a punjabi movie in the said name. The plaintiff had, in July 2013, registered the title with Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association, which is a voluntary organisation working in the film industry permitting the producers, directors, etc. to register movie titles in order to show priority in adoption of the same. The defendant also had registered the same title with another body — Indian Film and T.V. Producers Council — in August 2013. The question before the Court was whether the plaintiff had any copyright in the title or goodwill therein.
The High Court noted that the plaintiff had not, till date, used the title. It merely holds registration with IMPPA. The Court relied on the Supreme Court decision in Krishna Lulla v. Shyam Vithalrao Devkatta, (2016) 2 SCC 521 wherein it was held that there can be no copyright over titles. Thus, the movie titles may be entitled to protection, if substantial reputation and goodwill are established, per se. However, in absence of the same, they would not be protectable. In the present case, it could not be said that the title had acquired distinctiveness qua the plaintiff. For the same reason, the plaintiff was not entitled even for protection under the law of passing off. The Court also noted that the process of making and releasing a film is a lengthy process, and the period required for a title to acquire goodwill is equally long. The sanctity given to registration and adoption of titles, by persons in the industry who are members of the above-mentioned bodies, ought to be decided, lest the process of registration become meaningless. The suit was disposed of with such observations. [Prism Motion Pictures (P) Ltd. v. Mukta Arts Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Del 11152, dated 31-08-2018]