When reading about intellectual property rights (IPR) lawsuits and challenges, it is tempting to think that most such conflicts and issues arise outside India, mainly in the United States, where courts award large sums in well-publicised lawsuits.
However, in recent times, IPR activities in India and overseas point to the increasing frequency of disputes which either threaten to impact Indian businesses or directly involve them. We take a look at a few such instances.
By an order of the Madras High Court, various internet services providers, including the government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam, have been restrained from infringing copyright with respect to a film called 3 that is allegedly being uploaded and transmitted using their services. The lawsuit, filed by RK Productions, the producer and copyright owner of the film, seeks to prevent the transmission, copying and downloading of 3 without a licence from the copyright owner. ‘Kolaveri Di’, the song that became a national rage and went viral on the internet, is one of the highlights of the film.
Film producers are likely to use these lawsuits as bargaining tools, and to make certain that the communications services providers enter into proper licence agreements with them (the producers), thereby assuring themselves of profits from various forms of distribution. With its huge and prolific film and music industry, India has a significant stake in a well-developed copyright law that balances the interests of producers, distributors and consumers of films and songs. Despite that there is little debate generated on such issues in the country.
A rich source opens up
In a case filed outside India, involving the Sahara Force India Formula One team, the London High Court found team Lotus (now renamed Caterham) and Aerolab liable for copyright infringement in publishing pictures of wind-tunnel models whose copyright is owned by Force India. The court also held the two companies liable for using confidential information that belonged to Force India.
Force India had pursued legal action in Italy and in the United Kingdom after Caterham and Aerolab published the wind-tunnel model pictures in November 2009. Force India alleged that its copyright was infringed when a former employee, who subsequently joined team Lotus (Caterham), made illegal copies of designs kept secure with Aerolab. The matter also involved the use of confidential information, owned by Force India, to make components for Lotus race cars in the 2010 racing season.
Aerolab, under an agreement, designed aerodynamic features for Force India’s cars, and the copyright for the drawings, as part of the intellectual property terms of the contract, was assigned to Force India. Later, Aerolab worked with Lotus. According to Force India, this development led to the copyright infringement of designs for which the copyright vested in Force India.
Designing a benefit
In another case, Graphics Properties Holdings, formerly known as Silicon Graphics, has reportedly claimed that Apple and Sony Corporation have infringed its patents. The claims have been made in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Graphics Properties has also filed suit against HTC Corporation, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics. Graphics Properties Holding says that all these companies have infringed its patents by selling mobile phones and other devices that use the patented technologies of Graphics Properties Holding. In this case, the patented technologies relate to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on screens.
An impact in India
On a different note, various renowned Indian businesses are grappling with the problem of counterfeit and spurious products in Chinese markets. With the Indian government guiding them, such companies — including Raymond, Onida and Emami — are pursuing the matter to stop exploitation of their trademarks and copyright materials in Chinese markets.
The Chinese market is a large one and has huge potential for Indian businesses, which is why the result of the efforts of these Indian business leaders will be carefully observed by other Indian companies already present in China or planning to enter the Chinese markets. The Indian government is working with the Chinese authorities to help resolve such issues and attend to the concerns of Indian businesses.
To sum up, these cases draw attention to the fact that IPR is important to every stakeholder in Indian businesses, and the businesses themselves, whether within the country or beyond its shores.