Surinder Prakash Gupta v Union of India & Ors, was a writ petition filed by Surinder Prakash against an order dated 31st January 2007, of the Copyright Board (C Board) which allowed an appeal filed by the Respondent No.3 against an order dated 23rd December 2005, passed by the Registrar of Copyright (Registrar).
A brief outline of facts:
On 17th February 2005, Surinder Prakash had filed six applications in respect of artistic works, which were computer outputs of basic work created by an artist in the nature of caricatures drawn by pencil.
According to Surinder Prakash, on 26th February 2005, he had filed a complaint with the Delhi Police against infringement of certain other registered artistic works by certain persons importing towels bearing the said artistic works owned by Surinder. On being informed about the infringing activities on the part of the Respondent No.3's firm, the Delhi Police raided their premises and a large quantity of infringing goods were seized. An FIR was registered against the partners of Respondent No.3 for the offence of Section 63 of the Copyright Act, 1957. On 4th March 2005, bail was granted to one of the partners of Respondent No.3 on admission vide an undertaking that Surinder Prakash was the owner of the copyright in respect of the original artistic works.
On 19th April 2005, the Respondent No.3 filed objections before the Registrar to the grant of registration in respect to Surinder Prakash's six applications. In addition, they also filed a suit in the Delhi High Court for cancellation of the deed of undertaking dated 4th March, 2005.
The Registrar decided in favour of Surinder Prakash, and finding the objections raised by Respondent No.3, "time barred" stated that the case would be time barred if it could be proved that not only the objector was an interested party under Rule 16 of the Copyright Rules, 1958 but also that he had been duly informed in time by the applicant about the application for registration. In this case the Registrar found the objector not an interested party and, therefore, the applicant was not obliged to inform him under Rule 16 about the application for registration.
The C Board, in the appeal filed by the Respondent No. 3 addressed the same issue of limitation. Vide an order dated 31st January 2007, the Board held that since no time limit has been prescribed for a person not interested to file an objection, rule of common sense and natural justice dictated that "it has to be within a reasonable time immediately after the person comes to know about the filing of application." The Board consequently held that there was nothing wrong with the objection filed by Respondent No.3.
It was contended by Surinder Prakash that the finding of the board was erroneous. Referring to Rule 16 (3) and (4) of the Rules, it was submitted that where the objections are admittedly filed beyond thirty days of the filing of the application and there is no provision for condonation of delay, the objections are clearly time barred.
In response, it was submitted by Respondent No. 3 that the Copyright Act does not have a provision for advertisement of the filing of an application seeking registration of copyright. Further, ordinarily, knowledge of the filing of the application would only be after the registration is granted. In such circumstances, it was contended that the decision of the Board that the objections could be filed "within a reasonable period immediately after the objector comes to know of the filing of the application" was reasonable and did not need any interference.
The Court referred to the relevant Rules. The said rules are as follows:
"16. Application for Registration of Copyright:
(3) The person applying for registration shall give notice of his application to every person who claims or has any interest in the subject matter of the copyright or disputes the rights of the applicant to it.
(4) If no objection to such registration is received by the Registrar of Copyrights within thirty days of the receipt of the application by him, he shall, if satisfied about the correctness of the particulars given in the application, enter such particulars in the Register of Copyrights.
The Court observed that in the present case the application seeking registration was filed on 17th February, 2005. Further, there was no occasion for Surinder Prakash to presume that Respondent No.3 had any interest in the said applications. As such, as per Rule 16 (3), Surinder Prakash had no obligation to give notice to the Respondent no.3."
The Court further stated that although it is true that under the scheme of the Act and Rules, unlike in the case of a trademark, there is no provision for advertisement of an application and in such cases a person objecting to the grant of registration can know of the application only after the registration is granted, and the remedy for such a person is to file an application for rectification thereafter, however, this by no means allows him to file objections beyond the period of thirty days after the filing of the application. Further, for the purposes of Rule 16 (4), the exact date of coming to know of the filing of an application would become a question of fact for which evidence would have to be led. In the present case the Respondent did not produce any such evidence and therefore computing the thirty day period under Rule 16(4) did not come into question.
In light of the above, therefore, the Court held that the objections raised by Respondent No. 3 were time barred and thus, consequently, set aside the impugned order of the Copyright Board.
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