This article on ‘IPR Relevance in Business Transactions in India’ was written by Shriharshini B, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are valuable assets for any business, and copyrights and trademarks are two of the most common forms of IPRs. Copyrights protect the original works of authorship, such as literary, musical, and artistic works, while trademarks protect distinctive signs, symbols, and logos that are used to distinguish goods or services. In India, the Copyright Act, of 1957 and the Trade Marks Act, of 1999 govern the copyright and trademark laws respectively. This article will discuss the relevance of copyrights and trademarks in business transactions in India.
Copyrights in Business Transactions
Copyrights play a significant role in various business transactions, such as licensing, franchising, mergers and acquisitions, and technology transfer agreements. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute, and display their copyrighted work, and can grant licenses or assign these rights to third parties. This allows businesses to generate revenue from their copyrighted works by licensing them to other companies.
In the absence of proper copyright protection, the owner risks losing control over their work, which can lead to unauthorized copying and distribution, ultimately causing financial losses. In India, the Copyright Act, of 1957 provides copyright protection, which aims to safeguard the interests of the creators of original works by providing them with the exclusive right to use their work in any way they see fit. Therefore, it is imperative for businesses to be mindful of copyright laws while conducting their operations, including entering into agreements with other parties involving the use of copyrighted material. Proper due diligence and obtaining licenses and permits are crucial steps in avoiding copyright infringement and ensuring compliance with the law.
In the case of Ultra Home Construction Pvt. Ltd. v. Purushottam Kumar Chaubey and Ors., the plaintiff, Ultra Home Construction, alleged that the defendants had copied their copyrighted brochure and used it for their own business. The court held that the defendants had indeed copied the plaintiff’s brochure and issued an injunction to prevent them from using the copyrighted material. This case highlights the importance of copyright protection in the business world, as copyright infringement can have serious financial and legal consequences.
Trademark in Business Transactions
Trademarks are used to distinguish the goods or services of one business from those of another. A registered trademark provides the owner exclusive rights to use the trademark concerning the goods or services it is registered for. This makes trademarks valuable assets for businesses, as they help to build brand recognition and consumer loyalty.
In addition to trademark protection, businesses should also be aware of the concept of passing off, which is closely related to trademark infringement. Passing off occurs when one party misrepresents their goods or services as those of another party, causing confusion among consumers and leading to potential harm to the reputation and goodwill of the original party. Passing off can occur even in the absence of a registered trademark, as long as the original party has built a reputation or goodwill associated with their goods or services.
Therefore, it is essential for businesses to ensure that they are not engaging in any activities that could be construed as passing off or leading to confusion among consumers. Taking proactive steps to safeguard their trademarks and goodwill can help businesses to protect their reputation and maintain a competitive edge in the market.
In the case of Christian Louboutin SAS v. Nakul Bajaj and Ors., the plaintiff, Christian Louboutin, alleged that the defendants were selling counterfeit products bearing the plaintiff’s trademark “Red Sole” through their website. The court held that the defendants had indeed infringed the plaintiff’s trademark and issued an injunction to prevent them from using the plaintiff’s trademark in any manner. The court also ordered the defendants to pay damages to the plaintiff for trademark infringement. This case highlights the importance of trademark protection in the business world, as trademark infringement can damage a business’s reputation and result in financial losses.
Trademark Due Diligence in Mergers and Acquisitions
Due diligence is an essential process in mergers and acquisitions, as it helps to identify and mitigate potential legal and financial risks. Trademark due diligence involves assessing the validity, ownership, and infringement risks associated with a company’s trademarks. This helps the acquiring company to make informed decisions about the value and risks associated with the target company’s intellectual property assets.
Additionally, conducting due diligence can help to ensure that the acquiring company is acquiring the rights to use the trademarks in the manner intended, and avoid any potential disputes that may arise in the future. As such, it is essential for companies engaging in M&A transactions to prioritize trademark due diligence as a critical component of the overall due diligence process.
In the case of PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd. v. Bharat Coca-Cola Holdings Pvt. Ltd., the plaintiff, PepsiCo India Holdings, alleged that the defendant, Bharat Coca-Cola Holdings, had infringed their trademark “Slice” by using a similar mark “Fruit Slice” for their beverage products. The court held that the defendant had indeed infringed the plaintiff’s trademark and issued an injunction to prevent them from using the infringing mark. The court also awarded damages to the plaintiff for trademark infringement. This case highlights the importance of trademark protection and enforcement in business transactions, as failure to do so can result in reputational and financial losses.
- Stay up to date with changes in trademark and copyright laws: Trademark and copyright laws are constantly evolving, so it’s important for businesses to stay current with any updates or changes in the law that may affect their operations.
- Conduct thorough due diligence before entering into business transactions: Due diligence is critical to identifying any potential risks or liabilities associated with trademarks and copyrights. By conducting thorough due diligence, businesses can minimize the risks associated with trademark and copyright infringement.
- Obtain proper licenses and permits: Obtaining proper licenses and permits before using copyrighted material or trademarks can help to ensure compliance with the law and minimize the risks associated with infringement.
- Protect your intellectual property: Businesses should take proactive steps to protect their intellectual property, including trademarks and copyrights, through registration, monitoring, and enforcement.
Copyrights and trademarks are valuable assets for businesses, and their protection is essential in business transactions. Copyright protection can generate revenue through licensing agreements, while trademark protection can help build brand recognition and consumer loyalty. Due diligence is a critical process in business transactions, and trademark due diligence can help to identify and mitigate potential legal and financial risks.
The importance of conducting thorough trademark and copyright due diligence cannot be overstated, especially in M&A transactions, where the value and risks associated with intellectual property can significantly impact the transaction’s success. By prioritizing trademark and copyright protection, businesses can protect their reputation, maintain a competitive edge, and avoid legal and financial risks associated with intellectual property violations.
- Copyright Act, 1957: https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/1367/1/copy1957___14.pdf
- Trade Marks Act, 1999: https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/1993/1/A1999-47.pdf
- Ultra Home Construction Pvt. Ltd. v. Purushottam Kumar Chaubey and Ors. (2017) 68 PTC 595 (Del): https://indiankanoon.org/doc/123737198/
- Christian Louboutin SAS v. Nakul Bajaj and Ors. (2018) SCC OnLine Del 10944: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/99622088/
- PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd. v. Bharat Coca-Cola Holdings Pvt. Ltd. (2018) SCC OnLine Del 9603: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/721210/