India: Plagiarizm In Fashion Industry

Last Updated: 21 February 2007
Article by Manisha Singh

Copyright is one of the main branches of intellectual property rights, together with patents and trademarks. The copyright law was originally conceived to provide protection against unauthorized reproduction of books and publications. But the modern day world of information age, the copyright law provides the framework not only for the protection of traditional beneficiaries like individual owner, artist or composer, but also for the investments required for the creation of works by major cultural industries like film, broadcasting, and computer software industry.

The Delhi High Court in Suneet Varma Design Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. V. Jas Kirat Singh Narula & Anr. 2007 (34) PTC 81 (Del.) addressed the question as to whether, a particular dress in a film was only by way of background or ‘incidental to the principal matters’ represented in the film, ancillary to the key dispute of infringement of copyright of the plaintiffs in a particular dress designed by them.

Facts of the case

Suneet Varma/2nd plaintiff is the managing director of the Suneet Varma Design Pvt. Ltd. and claims to be a renowned designer of international reputation and is engaged in the creation or fabrication of wearing apparels, which are exclusive in shape, configuration and pattern. The product of the plaintiff attaches high demand due to the originality and quality. The plaintiff themselves have various exclusive outlets and due its wide presence have acquired immense reputation and goodwill. The allegation of the plaintiff is that one of the dress for women, a blue poncho and heavily embroidered trousers, an original and distinctive creation of the plaintiff, have been featured in a film ‘Bunty Aur Bubli’ produced by the second defendant, thereby infringing the copyright and hence a suit for permanent injunction along with rendition of accounts has been preferred.

The central female protagonist of the film, Miss Rani Mukherji, is shown wearing this dress. Since the 2nd defendant/ producer had availed the services of another designer, he is arrayed as the first defendant.

In their reply notice, the first defendant/designer for the film, clarified that he did not design the impugned dress but purchased it from a shop in Mumbai, and the second defendant/producer, contented that one of the terms of agreement was that the costumes/designs conceptualized, formulated and exhibited for the film should not be plagiarized or infringing the copyrights of others. The second defendant/producer on the basis of the above defense read together with Section 52 (1) (u) (ii) of the Copyright Act 1957, preferred an application under Order 1 Rule 10 C.P.C. for striking out the name of the second defendant form the array of parties.


The main contention of the second defendant/producer is that as the suit does not disclose any cause of action, his name is liable to be struck down from the array of the parties. Further that, Section 52 (1) (u) (ii) of the Copyright Act, provides that it would not amount to infringement if an artistic work is included in a cinematograph film as by way of background or is otherwise incidental to the principal matters represented in the film. The principal characters in an Indian film, change their attires several times even in a long sequence and hence, can only be incidental to the principal matters represented in a film. More over, it is practically impossible for the producer to take permissions from the designers of every one of the hundreds or sometimes thousands of clothes used in the cinematograph film. The dress in question appears only for a few seconds in the film and hence does not amount to infringement of copyright in any artistic work.

The defendants, for substantiating their stand enumerate the rationale for engrafting the same in to the Indian statute books. The U. K. Copyright Act, on which the Indian Copyright Act is modeled, enshrines three key justifications for Section 52 (1) (u).

  1. In relation to photographers, film makers and broadcasters, it is justifiable on the grounds that it will often be very difficult to obtain permission from the owners of all the works reproduced in the photograph, film or broadcast;
  2. The incidental use of a work will in any event not detract from the market of the original and in certain circumstances may even enhance it;
  3. Such a provision allows filmmakers and broadcasters a degree of artistic freedom by allowing them to set the activities of their characters in a vide variety of settings.

Hence, it is submitted that as the dress is only incidental to the film and the inclusion of the dress only enhances the market of the dress rather than detracting the same.

On the other hand, Suneet Varma contends that the second defendant has employed delay tactics in filing the application and alleged that what the second defendant aims at is the rejection of plaint itself. Further contended that as Suneet Varma being the owner of ‘original artistic work’ has the exclusive rights under Section 14 of the Copyright Act dealing with the reproduction of the said works. On the question of ‘incidental to the principal matters’, it was contended that it could only logically be interpreted to mean incidental to the character if the artistic work in question is in respect of the dress. It was further pointed out that the infringing dress has been used not only as part of the film, but also used in the inlay cards for the audio/videos, CDs, DVDs etc as promotional materials and these are outside the purview of Section 52 (1) (u) (ii).


The Court is very much in consonance with Suneet Varma when it accepts the view that the primary objective of the second defendant in filing application under Order 1 Rule 10 is essentially the rejection of the plaint. The court further observes that styling of the movie now a day has become as important as dialogue, screenplay or music. The costumes are designed in such a way as to bring out the character of that particular actor in the movie. ’Bollywood’ (the Hindi film industry) has become integral to the fashion industry and there are specific awards to the costumes in the film and hence can be inferred as ‘integral to the film’ and not entitled to protection under Section 52 (1) (u) (ii) of the Copyright Act 1957.

But the Court deliberately leaves the determination of the question as to whether a particular dress was only by way of background or incidental to the principal matters, subject to evidence. The Court further observes that as the second defendant was well aware and conscious of the fact that the dress used in the film should not be plagiarized or infringing copyrights of other designers, and as the first defendant has admitted that he had not designed the said dress, the presence of the second defendant becomes inevitable and hence cannot be deleted from the array of the parties and thereby dismissed the application.


This case follows the footsteps of the acclaimed fashion designer Ritu Kumar’s endeavor against reproduction, printing, selling and distribution of her designs. However, each case has certain innate peculiarities therefore, a lot depends on the judicial scrutiny and on the view taken by the court.

© Lex Orbis 2007

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.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
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