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April 1, 2022

Court Case Bulletin (CCB): No Copyright Can Be Claimed Based On Concepts Which Are In The Public Domain

Featuring: Intern - Sravani K

In the matter of Samir Kasal v Prashant Mehta & Ors. [2022 (89) PTC 432 (Del)], a Single Judge [Asha Menon J.] of the High Court of Delhi, vide order dated January 19, 2022, dismissing the Plaintiff’s interim application seeking injunction, held that exclusive rights such as copyright, cannot be claimed over works for which the idea has been in the public domain for years.

Section 13 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides, “…copyright shall subsist throughout India in the following classes of works, that is to say, (a) original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works…”.The issue arises whether ‘original’ work can include within its ambit, those works for which the underlying idea is in the public domain or if the underlying idea itself must bear originality.

The Plaintiff argued that the idea and format for conducting a 10-over cricket league for retired players was his own, and that he had exclusive rights over it. The Plaintiff also argued that his idea was being forged by the Defendants for their commercial advantage.

The Defendants contested the originality of the idea and argued that matches in which retired cricketers have played, including to raise funds for public causes, has been conceptualised in 1997 and such matches have also been organized in 2015 and 2016.  The Defendants further contended that the concept of hosting league-matches at neutral avenues and engaging retired cricketers was not a novel one in the field of cricket. Further submitting that the Plaintiff’s idea lacked uniqueness, the Defendants argued that the concept had been in the public domain for years, and that the Plaintiff was not entitled to claim copyright protection over the format and concept of its cricket league.

The High Court, while dismissing the interim application, observed that “The idea of a ‘Ten Overs’ cricket match, with two innings, was introduced way back in 1997 in New Zealand. Retired Cricketers have been playing matches all around the world and therefore, that too, is not an original idea of plaintiff……since each of these ideas have been in ‘Public Domain’ for long i.e., since its conceptualisation in 1997, 2015 and so on, none can claim exclusive right to any of these ideas…….To say that because the plaintiff conceptualized a league match with retired cricketers in a ‘T-10 Test Format’…… that being his idea, had become his exclusive right, is to stretch it too far to claim a right to seek an injunction against the Legends League Cricket tournament organized by the defendants”.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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