17 August 2018

Copyright in image of ‘Lightning McQueen’ protected from commercial misuse

In a case of character merchandising, Delhi High Court has granted permanent injunction retraining defendants from selling goods bearing image of device/work in “Lightning McQueen”, a character from the Disney movie called “Cars”.

It noted that said device is a copyrighted character and under Copyright Act, 1957 any copyrighted work protected internationally is liable to be protected in India, India being a party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Universal Copyright Convention. It was observed that registration of copyright is not required for protection of an artistic work.

The High Court for this purpose also observed that creation of fictional characters requires great amount of creativity and innovative mind, and hence, well known characters must be prevented from being misused for commercial products.

The defendants (Pankaj Aggarwal) were manufacturing chocolates by the name of “Choco Car” which consisted of an artistic work/character which is a complete imitation of the “Lightning McQueen”.

The Court was of the view that while fair use of the characters is permissible, within the legally prescribed norms, unlicensed use of the image of a known character on chocolates, which the plaintiff also licenses for legitimate use on chocolates/ wrappers, would be unlawful and illegal.


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