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July 12, 2019

Substantial Resemblance Sufficient To Constitute Copyright Infringement Of Cinematograph Work

Author: Andri Shukla

In MRF Limited v. Metro Tyres Limited [CS(COMM) 753/2017], the Delhi High Court vide its interim order dated July 1, 2019, dismissed MRF Limited’s application to restrain Metro Tyres Limited from airing an allegedly similar advertisement. While holding that substantial resemblance would be sufficient to constitute copyright infringement, the Court held that the Defendant’s advertisement was “neither substantially nor materially or essentially similar” to the Plaintiff’s advertisement.

The Plaintiff averred that the Defendant’s advertisement imitated the sequencing, form, treatment and expression of Plaintiff’s advertisement. Relying on R.G. Anand v M/s Deluxe Films and Ors. (1978) 4 SCC 118, the Plaintiff argued that the test for copyright infringement of a cinematograph film is by way of the overall impression of an average viewer, and not a minute dissection that underscores differences.

The Defendant submitted that a prerequisite to establish copyright infringement of a cinematograph film is that the allegedly infringing work be made by a process of duplication. The Defendant added that ‘mere resemblance’ to the original work would not constitute copyright infringement. The Defendant further contended that the judgment in R.G. Anand was inapplicable, as it pertained only to literary works.

Holding that the R.G. Anand decision was not confined to literary works, the Court concluded that “‘to make a copy of the film’ does not mean just to make a physical copy of the film by a process of duplication, but it also refers to another film which substantially, fundamentally, essentially and materially resembles/reproduces the original film” and added that Courts would need to “compare “the substance, the foundation, the kernel” of the two advertisements to consider whether one was “by and large a copy” of the other and whether an average viewer would get an unmistakable impression that one work was a copy of the other”.

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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