India: An Overview Of Rights Involved With The IP Assets Of Political Parties

The 16th Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 in India have experienced a wave that has moved people from almost all the sections and age groups of the society. Gone are the times, when discussing politics was considered as an affair only elders can entertain and youth were generally considered alien to it. This year's elections received an overwhelming and equivalent response from the youth as well. The social media and internet has been flooded with political posts and tweets since past few months. The political parties and the leaders have enjoyed a celebrity status this year which was no lesser than that of any film star.

The political histories of various nations have experienced many of such slogans which played a great role in revolutions and movements. For e.g. "Nothing about us without us" and "Black is beautiful" from the west, "Me ne frego!" (I don't give a damn) and "Führer befiehl, wir folgen dir!" (Follow command, we'll follow you!) from the European countries, "Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan" (Hail the soldier, hail the farmer) and "Give me blood, I will give you freedom" from India and so on. The political parties in India have emerged as a brand this year with not only slogans but memes, names, posters, advertisements, jingles, anthem in their names. Some of the taglines like "India Shining" and "Har Haath shakti har haath Tarakki" (Power and progress in every hand) have been endorsed and used like brand names for campaigning and promotion of the political parties. With the advent of all this, enters the question of protection of the Intellectual Property rights of the political parties on these assets. These may be protected under different Intellectual Property Regimes. The jingles and anthems may be protected as copyrights, the slogans, names and the taglines etc may be protected under the Trademarks law, the website names are protected as domain names and so on.

Protection of Various Kinds of IP regimes involved-

There are plethoras of IP rights involved with the protection of intellectual assets of these political parties. Let us discuss them one by one in detail

a) Slogans and Taglines-

"a Slogan may be defined as a group of words or catch phrase used mainly in advertising and promotion.1" A slogan may be registered both as a trademark as well as a copyright work. A slogan which is capable of becoming synonymous with the goodwill and reputation of a brand can be registered as a trademark. On the other hand, the slogans which qualify as an original and innovative literary or artistic work can be registered as a copyright. If we consider the situation with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), the registration procedure of slogans has undergone various stages. Initially the Lanham (Trademarks) Act did not allowed the registration of trademark and later the registration of slogans was allowed but there was a heavy burden on the slogans to qualify for registration. However, as predicted by Beran in "Protection of Slogans in the Patent Office and the Courts2" "the time is rapidly approaching when slogans will be considered, in actuality, on a par with non slogan marks for purposes of registration in the United States Patent Office." We are now in a stage where there is almost no difference between the registration of a slogan and a trademark. Similarly, in India also, there are no special qualifications for a slogan to be registered as a trademark.

b) Internet Memes-

A meme may be defined as "An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations" 3. An Internet meme is an idea, style or action which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet, as with imitating the concept4,5. Nowadays, during the elections, the internet and specially the social networking sites were flooded with such catchy images and memes. A meme involves multiple rights which may accrue to its creator. For e.g. if there is a meme with an image of a celebrity, a tagline and a mimic, the creator can obtain a copyright registration on the meme as a whole, a trademark on the tagline and the slogan used thereof, celebrity rights of publicity etc. But, then there is an important question on the row that what will be the affects of licensing of these memes? As we all know these memes are often used by the political parties to make remarks which are often offensive on the members of other parties. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that a person who has obtained a license for the use of the meme is not likely to cause an infringement of a celebrity's personality right or any separate trademark or copyright which may be a part and parcel of the meme. Therefore, with the up flow of putting humorous remarks on each others, the parties must know the thin line of difference between mimicry and defamation, entertainment and rivalry.

c) Posters, Anthems, jingles etc.

Technological developments have paved way for new ways of advertisements and promotion of the political parties. From posters, banners and pamphlets to jingles, anthems, public manifestos, all are now a part of the promotional election campaigns of parties. As per the copyright law, a literary and/or artistic work or a cinematographic film is entitled to get protection under the Copyrights Act. Therefore, all these promotional means are capable of getting protected as a copyright.

d) Domain names, websites etc.

A domain name can be registered with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which is a private body responsible for implementation and enactment of internet related parameters and the allotment of unique identities to users. It provides for registration of domain names under various gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domain Names) like ".com", ".org", '.net" etc. Apart from this there are various other bodies which are registered with the ICANN and provide for registration in particular countries on the basis of ccTLDS (Country Code Top Level Domain Names). For e.g. "fr" in France and ".in" in India. Further, a copyright may be obtained on the website's layout and could be registered as a literary work on a computer program.

Conclusion

Although, as of now, the Indian Courts have not experienced any substantial case of infringement of taglines, memes and slogans of political parties, the latest trends and developments have brought a serious concern of Intellectual Property protection for the political parties. Unlike foreign countries, where there have been various instances wherein political parties have initiated actions for infringement against others, the Indian political parties are working more under the principle of "Any Publicity is a Good Publicity" and thus seem less interested in protecting the same. But taking a recent instance into consideration where the BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party) initiated and won an action against the infringement of their domain name, it can be said that the time is not far away where the protection of Intellectual Property will also be in the concern manifestos of the leading political parties.

Footnotes

1. 2 R. CALLMAN, UNFAIR CobpzrioN AND TRADE-MARS 147 (2d ed. 1950).

2. Trademark Rep. 219, 224 (1967).at 242

3. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/meme

4. Schubert, Karen (2003-07-31). "Bazaar goes bizarre". USA

Today.

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_meme

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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