Aspects such as Fashion, where a
dedicated statute does not exist, and where aspects from different
legislations may be drawn in, often find parties battling the
applicability of these to their case. A leading Fashion
designer' enterprise was engaged in one such brawl with a
less-evident player in the case of Tahiliani Design Pvt. Ltd.
v. Rajesh Masrani 2008 PTC (38) 251 (Del.) debating the
applicability of the regime of copyright and designs law to decide
an interim injunction with respect to an infringement suit.
Two applications praying for interim
injunctions were filed to restrain Rajesh Masrani from reproducing,
printing, publishing, distributing, selling or offering for sale
prints in any form whatsoever that are colorable imitations of
Tahiliani Design Pvt. Ltd' fabric prints. Tahiliani Design,
under the creative leadership of Tarun Tahiliani has a major
presence in the fashion industry enjoying global reputation.
Claiming to have four main product lines, couture, diffusion,
prêt-a-porter and accessories, the products are stated to
cater the high-end market consisting of clientele disinterested in
mass produced goods. The goods in respect of which the suit stands
forms part of the couture line and they moved to the Delhi high
Court to protect the distinctiveness of the garments while evading
incalculable damage to reputation. Masrani on the other hand is
less known and serves a less exclusive market.
Tahiliani learnt of Masrani having
placed an order for sample fabrics from his printer who supplied
him with a CD/DVD containing the prints to be executed. The
employees of the printer unsuspectingly executed the same on fabric
and the printer on seeing the final print realized each and every
print to be a copy of Tahiliani' earlier Spring Summer 2006
Collection and Autumn Winter 2006-07 prints. Besides
feature-by-feature copying (barring one/two features in a couple of
prints) Tahiliani stated that without access to his company'
confidential work, such extensive reproduction would not have been
Masrani contended that the work to
which protection under the Copyright Act, 1957 was being claimed as
"artistic work" were actually designs on textiles and
came under the purview of the Designs Act, 2000. It was submitted
that these did not constitute "artistic works" as under
the 1957 Act and were not capable of protection under S. 14(c)
therein. They stated that the suit was liable to be dismissed in
view of S. 15 of the Copyright Act, 1957 whereby a copyright would
not exist in any design registrable under the Designs Act 1911 or
the Designs Act 2000. While contending these grounds, the
similarity of the designs was not disputed by Masrani.
It was argued on behalf of Tahiliani
that the protection of Copyright was available in view of the fact
that they were the author/owner of the creative work of Mr.
Tahiliani or of his employees. Drawings made in the course of
developing garments were artistic works within the meaning of S.
2(c)(i) of the work. It was also contended that "artistic
work" is distinct from "design" and remains
"artistic work" per se distinct from the garment on which
it is applied and therefore falls under the exclusion as under S.
2(d) of the Designs Act, 2000.
With respect to Section 15(2) of the
Copyright Act, it was contended that the provisions were wholly
inapplicable to the case, since for copyright to cease to exist in
the design, the same must be produced at least fifty times by an
industrial process by the owner or licensee of the copyright. In
the case, it had been stated that the design had been reproduced
not more than twenty times.
Examining the sections vouched,
including that on infringement of copyright as well as that dealing
with the piracy of the design, along with case law rendered by both
parties, the Court concluded that the contentions raised by Masrani
were devoid of merit. On the question of the number of prints of a
fabric/garment, the Court opined that considering Tahiliani's
product lines, each piece needed to have its own creative inputs.
Further the court, quoting Roget' Thesaurus defining artist to
Couturier, stated that uniqueness not only in conceptualization but
also in creation and presentation are sine qua non of
haute couture. The Court further opined that for this
reason, the Legislature deemed it expedient to exclude an
'artistic work' from the definition of 'design' as
under the scheme of the Designs Act, 2000 and to highlight as under
Section 15(2). The Court found Tahiliani to have made out a strong
prima facie case for the confirmation of the ex parte
injunction in its favour, finding the balance of convenience to be
tilting in his favour in as much as a chance of unabated copying of
the design taking place.
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