India: Film Titles And Their Protection

Last Updated: 5 January 2016
Article by Lucy Rana and Pooja Thakur
Most Read Contributor in India, September 2018

Any cinematographic work is recognized for decades by its "Title". Registration of title by producers and writers is therefore becoming a prerequisite in the industry. Registration of titles with industry associations doesn't hold water in courts. By contrast, ownership and validity of titles can be established when registered with the Trademark Registry. Registration imparts exclusive right to the person who registers to use the title and restrain unauthorized use or adoption or infringement of the same.

It is common, rather it is imperative, to give title to literary or entertainment works. The literary work produced by the author or the work of entertainment produced by a producer needs a name. It is only then that such work would be identified. The term 'literary title' is used to encompass the titles of books, periodicals, newspapers, plays, motion pictures, television series, songs, phonograph records, cartoon features and the like. [McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition, Third Edition (1995) Vol. I].

The Indian film and entertainment industry is one of the largest producers of world class films. It offers a big market in terms of consumers and has a significant growth potential with an expected growth rate of 20% per year. The grant of "Industry" status to the Indian film industry by the Government of India in 2001 resulted in its rapid evolution with the foray of many foreign players and investors including 20th Century Fox, Viacom Motion Pictures, Warner Brothers etc. This paradigm shift is astounding however IP (Intellectual Property) issues mainly related to controversies over using deceptively similar titles or other ways of unauthorized adoption of titles of films, infringement of copyright and trademarks, passing off have also cropped up simultaneously.

Registration with Industry Associations

Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA), Association of Motion Pictures and Television Program Producers (AMPTPP) and Film and Television Producers' Guild of India, Film Writers' Association and Western India Film Producers Association (WIFPA) are the Industry associations that are consistently working with the objective of promoting and encouraging the production of feature films and protecting the commercial interest of films produced in India. Producers and writers (who are members of these associations) can also get the titles and scripts registered with these organizations. The film industry usually operates through these associations. Before registering the title, the association usually verifies with other associations as to whether the same or deceptively similar title has been registered with another association. However such registration only establishes priority in the adoption of title of film and authorship of the script and has no effect on any legal proceedings in the court.

Protecting the Title under Intellectual Property Laws

US Courts have taken an uniform view that the title alone of a literary work cannot be protected by Copyright Law. Thus copying of a title alone, and not the plot, characterization, dialogue, song etc. is not the subject of Copyright Law. The same fundamental is followed under Copyright Law in India. Indian Copyright Law offers protection to the original literary work, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematographic films and sound recording but not to titles alone.

Trademark Registration of the Title

The legal protection for literary titles lies in the field of trademark and unfair competition law and is protected under the fundamental tenets of the said law. The Delhi High Court has also noted in the famous "Nishabd" case that the title cannot be used in such a way as to create a likelihood of confusion of source, affiliation, sponsorship or connection in the minds of potential buyers. For these purposes, titles of literary and entertainment creations and works are treated in much the same way as the trademarks of other commercial commodities.

Titles may relate to a single literary work or to a series of literary works. The scope, parameters and limitations of both types of works as observed by the Delhi High Court is delineated below:

Titles of a series of literary works

Titles of a series of books, periodicals or newspapers function as a trademark to indicate that each edition comes from the same source as the others and can therefore be registered as a trademark. Such 'series titles' enjoy the same protection as usual trademark.

Titles of single literary works

In order to be entitled for trademark protection, it is necessary to establish that the titles of single literary works have acquired secondary meaning. The underlying assumption behind this is that the question of likelihood of confusion of source, affiliation, sponsorship or connection in the minds of potential buyers/users would arise and can be contended only if the disputed title has acquired the secondary meaning and is capable of associating itself with the particular work or source.

Even if the work has not been released, a sufficient amount of pre-release publicity of the title may cause a title to acquire recognition sufficient for protection. Relevant evidence from which secondary meaning for a literary title may be inferred as a question of fact includes:

  • the length and continuity of use;
  • the extent of advertising and promotion and the amount of money spent;
  • the sales figures on purchases or admissions and the number of people who bought or viewed the work; and
  • the closeness of the geographical and product markets
Disputes surrounding the Titles of Films registered with Industry Associations

Shortkut: Bikramjeet Singh vs Anil Kapoor

Anil Kapoor, an Indian actor and producer, had registered the title "shortkut" for his production -starring Akshaye Khanna, Arshad Warsi and Amrita Rao- with IMPPA. Later on, producer Bikramheet Singh Bhullar raised objection with the IMPPA, submitting that the same title has been registered by him prior to Anil Kapoor's registration. In this Title tussle, Anil Kapoor had to finally withdraw and change the title to "Shortkut- The Con Is On".

Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic vs Thoda Life, Thoda Magic

The Yash Raj Films production "Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic" came under controversy over the title when opposed by actor-producer Saahil Chadha on the grounds that the title of his film "Thoda Life, Thoda Magic" had already been registered with the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA). Kunal Kohli, Director of "Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic" in the counter argument said that the title of his movie was registered with the Film and Television Producers` Guild of India. Sahil later lodged a complaint with IMPAA. Later, both the movies were released without any change in their title.

Trademark Applications by leading Media and Production Houses in India:

Leading production houses in India apply for registration of movie titles and labels in Class 41 that encompass a number of services including "entertainment". Phir Hera Pheri (1084237), Munna Bhai (1780467, 1780364) and Dhoom (2193798, 2095311 and 1319835) are examples of movie series where the producers have applied for registration of movie titles and labels in Class 41. On the other hand, as movies are also viewed on storage devices like DVDs, many applications are also filed in Class 9 that provides for, among other goods, "apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images...". The graph below depicts the number of applications filed for registration in Class 41 and Class 9 by some of the media houses in India.

Famous Controversies surrounding movie "Title"

Biswaroop Roy Choudhary vs Karan Johar on 28 July, 2006

Producer Biswaroop Roy filed a suit in the High Court of Delhi seeking permanent injunction to restrain Karan Johar from using his registered title "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna". The said title had also been filed by Karan Johar with the Association of Motion Pictures and TV Program Producers and the Film and Television Producers Guild of India.

The court dismissed the petition on the grounds that words or phrases in common parlance are sought to be used with exclusivity and which of the parties has traversed an appreciably longer way in the use of such words as a trademark or as a title.

Kanungo Media (P) Ltd. vs RGV Film Factory And Ors. on 27 February, 2007

Kanungo Media (P) Ltd. filed a suit against Ram Gopal Verma in the High Court of Delhi seeking permanent injunction for using the title of their highly acclaimed film title "NISHABD". The court held that the plaintiff's film has not acquired secondary meaning and is therefore not likely to cause any confusion in the mind of the public. Also plaintiff delayed in bringing the cause to the court. In view of this injunction, the application of the plaintiff was dismissed.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. ... vs Harinder Kohli And Ors on 22 September, 2008

Warner Bros. filed a suit for permanent injunction in the High Court of Delhi to restrain producers of "HARI PUTTAR" from using the title that allegedly infringes their registered trademark HARRY POTTER. The Court while dismissing the suit held that Harry Potter films are targeted to meet the entertainment needs of an elite and exclusive audience who can discern the difference between a film based on a Harry Potter book and a film which is a Punjabi comedy.


Any cinematographic work is recognized for decades by its "Title". It also helps the people to conceptualize the idea associated with the film. Registration of title by the producers and writers is therefore becoming a prerequisite and imperative to preserve their commercial rights and interests in the movies. As the registration of title with Industry Associations does not play any vital role in court cases. The ownership and validity of the title can be easily established in case the marks are registered with Trademark Registry.

The registration not only imparts an exclusive right to the registrant to use the title and restrain the unauthorized use/ adoption or infringement of title but also in case of suits of infringement or passing off, the registrant can seek permanent injunctions and damages.

Fish Eye Network Pvt. Ltd. vs Association of Motion Pictures & T.V. Programme Producers and others (SUIT (LODG.) NO.901 OF 2011)

The Application was filed by the Plaintiff in the Bombay High Court seeking ad interim relief against the release of the Movie "Thank You" as the said title was registered with the Association of Motion Pictures and T.V. Program Producers by Plaintiff in 2005. The Court refused to grant ad interim relief to the Plaintiff and on the basis that, "Fisheye was aware since May 2005 that UTV was using the title 'Thank You' and that prima facie, there was no copyright as such in a title, hence the Court would not be inclined to give interim injunction at the stage when the movie was slated for release as the producers had already spent `60 crore on the making of the film.

Nokia Corporation vs MOVIEEXPRESS (CS(OS) 286/2012 High Court of Delhi, Order dated February 6, 2012)

Nokia Corporation filed an application for grant of ex parte ad interim injunction in the High Court of Delhi against the Defendants from producing a Telgu movie tiltled 'Mr. Nokia' which they alleged was deceptively or phonetically similar to their registered trade mark "Nokia".

The court passed an order restraining defendant and its agents from advertising, offering for viewing the movie under the title Mr. Nokia and/or Mr. No. Keyia and/or Mr. Nav-kia and/ or other identical or deceptively similar (phonetically, structurally or visually) mark to the plaintiffs registered trade mark Nokia.

Originally published by Legal Era.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Lucy Rana
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
R. K. Dewan & Co
Singh & Associates
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
R. K. Dewan & Co
Singh & Associates
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions