The Delhi High Court has asked the Indian Film and Television Producer Council (IFTPC) and the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) to consider if any guidelines could be framed in regard to competing film titles registered with them to avoid future conflicts between producers over titles of the film.
“The sanctity to be given to adoption and registration of titles, by persons in the industry, who are members of these bodies, ought to be decided, lest the process of registration becomes meaningless,” said Justice Pratibha M Singh.
The court said so while deciding a suit filed by Prism Motion Pictures Private Limited against Subhash Ghai’s production house Mukta Arts Ltd and IMPPA for infringement of copyright and passing off of its film title ‘Double Trouble’.
Prism Motion Pictures had got the title ‘Double Trouble’ registered for a Punjabi film but did not produce or release the film.
Mukta Arts, on the other hand, adopted the title ‘Double Di Trouble’ and released a Punjabi film with this name.
Prism Motion Pictures told the court that it had got the title ‘Double Trouble’ registered with the IMPPA, which is a voluntary organization working in the film industry and permits producers, directors etc., to register film titles, in order to show the priority of adoption of movie titles.
It said it had applied for the said title in March 2013 and was granted copyright on July 30, 2014, and while it was working on the script and production for the said film, it learnt that Mukta Arts has adopted the title ‘Double Di Trouble’ and the film was released in August 2014.
Prism Motion Pictures moved court seeking an injunction to the effect that Mukta Arts should not be allowed to use the title ‘Double Di Trouble’, which is almost identical to its title.
It also prayed that a voluntary body like the IMPPA ought to be respected by large firms like Defendant No.1 (Mukta Arts) who should not be allowed to overpower a smaller player in the industry like the plaintiff and ignore such a player’s priority of adoption.
Mukta Arts, on the other hand, submitted that it registered its title with the IFTPC on August 30, 2013, while agreeing that Prism Motion Pictures’ application for registration is prior in time.
Justice Singh noted here that Mukta Arts, though a member of the IMPPA, sought to obtain registration from the IFTPC and not the IMPPA and that the IFTPC is also a similar voluntary body, like the IMPPA, which operates in the film industry. The bench held that Prism Motion Pictures holds no copyright or goodwill in the title ‘Double Trouble’ as it has not used the name for any film or programme and merely holds a registration with the IMPPA.
The grievance of the plaintiff is that a voluntary body like the IMPPA ought to be respected by large firms like Defendant No.1 who should not be allowed to overpower a smaller player in the industry like the plaintiff and ignore such a player’s priority of adoption in this manner.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s decision while dealing with the title ‘Desi Boys’, the high court said though film titles may be entitled to protection if substantial reputation and goodwill is established, per se, in the absence of extensive use, they would not be protectable.
Registration Of Film Titles Should Be Given Sanctity
The bench delved into the aspect of adherence to the guidelines related to such voluntary bodies like the IMPPA and IFTPC, as it said, “There is no doubt that these are both bodies which are operating in the Bombay film industry. Defendant No.1 (Mukta Arts) is a member of Defendant No.2 (IMPPA) as also IFTPC. It, however, chose to register its title with IFTPC. It is for the said voluntary bodies to bring out guidelines on their own, to ensure that such conflicts do not occur between their members.”
“The whole purpose of registration of titles with voluntary bodies would be defeated if some sanctity is not given to priority in the adoption of a title. It is a publicly known fact that the process of film production is a long drawn one, beginning with the adoption of title, registering a title, arranging funds, script writing, finalising cast, production of the film, lining up distributors and finally culminating in the release of the film. Since the process is long, the period required for a title to acquire goodwill is also equally long. The sanctity to be given to adoption and registration of titles, by persons in the industry, who are members of these bodies, ought to be decided, lest the process of registration becomes meaningless,” said Justice Singh.
On Mukta Art’s counsel stating that there ought to be coordination between the voluntary organizations such as the IMPPA and IFTPC in order to ensure that such conflicts are not created in the future, and if they do arise, the same can be resolved in an amicable manner, Justice Singh said, “…both the bodies ought to consider if any guidelines need to be framed in respect of registration of titles.”
The court ordered that copy of its order be sent to the IMPPA and IFTPC in order for them to consider if any guidelines in regard to competing titles registered with their respective organisations ought to be passed.