India: Anand Udyog Restrained For Theft And Infringement Of Copyright In Drawings

Last Updated: 29 May 2009

Deciding upon a dispute dealing with copyright in drawings and their theft is the case of Indiana Gratings Private Limited & Anr v. Anand Udyog Fabricators Private Limited & Ors.[2009 (39) PTC 609 (Bom)]. Indiana Gratings claim to be the manufacturers of certain gratings used for industrial purposes. In this pursuance, they imported a second hand Electro Fold machine in the assembled form from a European manufacturer, which they found unsuitable to Indian conditions. They incorporated certain improvements and modifications to those machines and claim copyright in the drawings as an artistic work. Anand Udyog are accused of having obtained these drawings unlawfully and hence were alleged of theft and criminal conspiracy. The cause of action arose as Anand Udyog reproduced those drawings into finished products which they use for their business, competing with that of Indiana Gratings. Anand Udyog however contended that Indiana Gratings did not have any copyright over the drawings, because they had copied it from a second hand European machine they had imported. They further stated that if Indiana Gratings' work qualified as an artistic work being a product of their original effort there was no infringement by reproduction of those works in their finished products vis-à-vis the 3 dimensional objects as against Indiana Gratings' 2 dimensional drawings. Further the drawings were stated not to have a copyright in them as they were registrable under the Designs Act, 2000

Looking at the definition of "artistic work" as under Section 2(c) (i) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the Court opined that a drawing in the form of a diagram would qualify as an "artistic work" even if it did not portray any artistic quality to a layman. The Court stated that although Indiana Gratings had borrowed the idea from European manufacturers, the expression is in the drawings which carried a copyright with it. On the question of qualifying under the Designs Act, 2000, the Court took notice of Section 2(d) dealing with the definition of a "design" and the criteria considered to qualify as a design, the Court noted that the drawings, did not reflect finished articles, let alone appealing finished articles, but served a mere functional purpose, thus falling out of the purview of being a "design". The Court took notice of the case West vs. Francis (1822) 5. B & Ald. 743 whereby it was held that a drawing of an industrial product, which could be multiplied by an industrial process, would not qualify as a design under the Designs Act but a copyright as an artistic work.

Further, addressing the question of whether Anand Udyog's product constituted an infringing copy under section 2(m) of the Act, the Court noted that the depiction is in Anand Udyog's finished products of Indiana Gratings' drawings make it an infringing copy. Anand Udyog claimed that Indiana Gratings' drawings were commonplace shapes, based on basic principles of engineering mechanics. Indiana Gratings retorted stating that the various drawings taken as a whole for various parts of the machinery would fit into one another and when used together did not show commonplace drawings. The case of L.B. (Plastics) Limited vs. Swish Products Limited, (1979) RPC 551, was also referred whereby The House of Lords laid down a twin test to determine the infringement :

  1. There was a striking general similarity between the Plaintiffs and the Defendants' product with proof of access to the Plaintiffs' productions.
  2. The Defendants had not provided any alternative to copying.

It was also held therein that that once the similarity was shown between the object/drawing in contention was found, the next step was to consider whether this inference could be displaced by evidence from the Defendants showing how in fact they had arrived at their designs and had not done so by copying. A similar judgment was also noted to have been passed in Escorts Construction Equipment Ltd. & other vs. Action Construction Equipment Pvt. Ltd. & anr., AIR 1999 Delhi 73.

The Court noted, that in the present scenario, there was a case of theft coupled with recovery of the drawings, which revealed Anand Udyog' access to Indiana Gratings' drawings. Moreover, Anand Udyog neither relied upon nor produced their own drawings. The specific dimension of the drawings submitted by other co-defendants was found to be identical to the drawings of Indiana Gratings', which the Court held to prove beyond doubt that the drawings were copied.

Further, the Court found that Indiana Gratings' drawings had their specific identifiable marks alongside the copies recovered from some of the defendants, including distinctive alpha-numerals as also the logo, complete name and description of the product along with the legend for the various items in the drawings and a warranty. Taking note of the findings, the Court concluded that the drawing were stolen and copied.

In view of the facts of the case, the Court restrained Anand Udyog from using Indiana Gratings' drawings and thereby infringing their copyright in their drawings or making any 3 Dimensional objects of machine parts amounting to the reproduction of Indiana Gratings' drawings.

© Lex Orbis 2009

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