India: Order Of The Deputy Registrar Of Copyrights Not Providing Opportunity Of Being Heard, Set Aside By Delhi High Court

Last Updated: 15 June 2011
Article by Sonam Lhamu Bhutia

In the case of Castrol Limited v. Union of India and Anr; Castrol Limited (Petitioner), a company incorporated under the laws of England and involved in the business of manufacturing, processing and marketing high grade lubricating oil products in the United Kingdom and other countries challenged an Order of the Deputy Registrar of Copyrights (DROC) dated 30th September, 2009, by which the Petitioner's applications for two artistic works in respect of the Castrol logo under the Copyright Act, 1957, were recorded with liberty to the Petitioner to submit fresh applications.

A brief outline of the sequence of events is as follows:

  • 2nd August, 2004 - The aforementioned applications were filed by the Petitioner as per the requirement under Section 45, Copyright Act.
  • 15th February, 2005- An examination report of the DROC was issued, containing the following objections:
  1. That the firm cannot be the author of the work, therefore, details of the author were to be furnished.
  2. That the "No Objection Certificate (NOC)" in original from the author should be submitted.
  3. That the "Power of Attorney (POA)" duly accepted by the Attorney/ signed by the Applicant should be submitted.
  • 18th February, 2005- The Petitioner, on their part, vide a letter furnished details of the author of the artistic work with respect to each of the two applications, a notarized copy of the NOC from the original author and the POA in original.
  • 9th April, 2005- A second letter was sent by the Petitioner to the Registrar of Copyrights (ROC) enclosing a Form IV duly signed by the authorized person along with the POA in original on.
  • 11th/14th July, 2008- the Petitioner received a letter from the DROC asking for further documents to be furnished, i.e.:
  1. NOC from the original author(s), clearly indicating that he/she has no objection if the copyright in the work(s) is registered in the name of the Applicant.
  2. The POA, duly signed by the applicant and accepted by the attorney in original on stamp paper.
  • 14th October, 2008- The Petitioners submitted the NOC in original and the duly stamped POA.
  • 25th February 2009/3rd March, 2009- DROC's letter reiterating the same discrepancies mentioned above was received by the Petitioner.
  • 21st May, 2009- The Petitioner requested for time till 28th June, 2009 to file the said documents.
  • 22nd June, 2009- Petitioner sought further time till 28th July, 2009 for submitting the documents.
  • 7th August, 2009- DROC granted a final extension of three weeks time to file the requisite documents on or before 18th August, 2009.
  • 17th August, 2009- The Petitioner sought further extension of time till 18th September, 2009.
  • Finally, on 30th September, 2009, the DROC passed the impugned order which stated that owing to the fact that in spite of numerous extension of time for submission of documents, the Petitioner had failed to do so and as such no further communication with regard to the matter would be entertained further. However, the Petitioner was given the liberty to file the application(s) afresh, if they ever so desired.

The Petitioner, aggrieved by the aforementioned order came before the High Court. They contended that their applications could not be deemed to be abandoned and recorded without affording them the opportunity of being heard. It was further submitted that the required documents had already been submitted by the Petitioners despite which the DROC repeatedly asked for the same information. The Respondents were not represented despite one pass over.

The Court, observed that the impugned order had clearly been passed without giving the Petitioner the opportunity of being heard. It was evident to the Court from the narration of the facts that the Petitioners had replied to the letters of the DROC. The Court further noted that the impugned order did not refer to the contention of the Petitioner that once the author of the artistic work, had assigned the copyright in such work in the name of the Petitioner, then the Petitioner becomes the owner of the copyright, as such, the question of the author giving a NOC for the registration of the copyright in such work in favour of the Petitioner does not arise. Further, the order did not refer to the fact that the Petitioner had submitted the POA and the deed of assignment. The Court therefore felt that in light of such circumstances the DROC, ought to have given the Petitioner an opportunity of being heard before deciding to close the application as "recorded".

Consequently, the Court set aside the impugned order and restored the Petitioner's applications to the file of the DROC to be decided by the DROC in accordance with law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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