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This article is written by Gudipati Pavan Kumar, Advocate.

Introduction

Firstly, we will evaluate two important relevant IPR acts. First, we check The Designs Act, 2000 [1], Section 2(d). This defines “design” means only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament or composition of lines or colours applied to any article whether in two dimensional or three dimensional or in both forms, by any industrial process or means, whether manual, mechanical or chemical, separate or combined, which in the finished article appeal to and are judged solely by the eye; This clearly says “finished article appeal to and are judged solely by the eye”. Legal proceedings can be initiated as per section 22, which court may allow for damages, but which is a very small amount of Rs.50,000/- which is very small and cannot deter any person doing wrong things.

Second, we will check, The Copyright Act 1957 [2], section 2(c) “artistic work” means,— (i) a painting, a sculpture, a drawing (including a diagram, map, chart or plan), an engraving or a photograph, whether or not any such work possesses artistic quality; (ii) a 1 [work of architecture]; and (iii) any other work of artistic craftsmanship;

As per 2(ffc) “computer programme” means a set of instructions expressed in words, codes, schemes or in any other form, including a machine-readable medium, capable of causing a computer to perform a particular task or achieve a particular result;

Section 17, explains who is the first owner of the copyright, and section 40 deals with Power to extend copyright to foreign works. India has a bilateral agreement with the USA on Copyright act, under 5 UST 2529 and under Berne Convention, WIPO Treaty, Universal Copyright Convention, etc. As Zoom belongs to USA Company, they can sue in India for the infringement of copyright on Reliance Jio meets which belongs to Indian Company for Civil remedies like Damages, Injunction. In this court, may grant, unlimited or all the profits earned by the infringer. And also under Section 63B, Knowing the use of infringing a copy of a computer programme to be an offence and punished up to 3 years.

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Indian Case-Laws

Look and feel of the website, which we call as “UI”, a user interface is protected?

  1. Times Internet Ltd vs Jonathan S. And Another on 17 April 2012 [3]. Delhi High Court heard the case between Indiatimes and Indiatimes. Judgment was given in favour of the plaintiff. As in Judgment, “Plaintiff has also established that plaintiff is the first to use its logo Indiatimes, which is written in a unique and distinctive style, it has a unique layout, colour scheme and arrangement of features and, thus, the said work is within the meaning of section 2(c) of the Copyright Act and the plaintiff has got exclusive rights to reproduce the same”.
  2. Mr Anand Chitipothu vs Inflibnet Centre on 15 July 2009 [4], Central Information Commission,  said, as per Indian Copyright Act 1957 Section 2(o) “literary work” includes computer programmes, tables and compilations including computer “literary databases; This can be protected under the copyright act. In this case, data is maintained by the Government, and this data can be exempted from the RTI act. This case explained more on Computer databases and for obtaining data from the Government under the  RTI Act also

Views of USA

UI or GUI is protected under copyright, patents, designs or trade dress, etc. For the USA, copyright means any “Fixed tangible medium of expression”. For the USA,  Title 17—COPYRIGHTS is the Few cases like Amazon.com Vs. Barnes & Noble.com lawsuit on “1-Click patent “ which allows its customers to make repeat purchases at the site with just one mouse click. This is protected under Patent. One of the costly suits was settled between the parties. Patents for business methods are impossible to obtain in most countries, but valid in the US.

The USA follows concepts like “merger doctrine”[6] as per this, if there is only one or a limited number of ways to express a certain idea, that expression is said to have “merged” with the idea, and will not be eligible for copyright protection. This is because “to give one creator a monopoly over these basic elements would effectively stunt the efforts of other creators to elaborate on these elements in the production of their own works. But A GUI as a whole, however, is only protectable as a “compilation” of items. A “compilation” is a “collection . . . of preexisting materials or . . . data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship.” [6]

UI allowed as copyright or other IPR: Williams Elecs., Inc. v. Artic Int’l, Inc, is a landmark case for “is whether copyright protection should extend to the “look and feel” of a GUI ?” Whelan Associates, Inc. v. Jaslow Dental Laboratory, Inc. Case copyright protection was given for Non-literal items under “structure, sequence and organization” (SSO). Broderbund Software, Inc. v. Unison World, Inc broadened the Whelan ruling by extending the scope of copyright protection to non-literal elements, i.e., the “look and feel,” of a screen display. 

This situation changed after, 1992 case between Computer Associates International, Inc. v. Altai, Inc. And the case between Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation on GUI, Court not agreed on the copyright of Apple computers on GUI. Copyright has long abandoned protecting the “look and feels” of GUI designs, but “trade dress” rights, however, still extend to a GUI’s “look and feel,” including its overall design and its non-literal synergies. The number of cases is increasing on this topic under copyright, trademark, trade dress or design, or patent. But no clear outcome on this. Case by case, there are different opinions by Hon’ble judges and most of the time settled outside the court by Arbitration. 

Conclusion

Summary: As per Copyright Act and Design Act, Zoom can sue on Jio meet, if Jio meet has copied or has high similarity as in the UI from the Zoom. In this case, one difficulty is, who is the first owner? Before Zoom, there may be other companies that also have similar UI, for example, WebEx, skype, at any point in time. Based on facts and evidence, Zoom can get Permanent Injunctions, damages, even they can stop the circulation of copies of Jio meet. From Reliance Jio, they have to prove that they have a different UI than Zoom and substantiate with all evidence. Res ipsa loquitur, this dispute does not come under fair usage principle, as both are for commercial purposes.

References

  1. The Indian Design Act, 2000; http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/images/pdf/act-of-2000.pdf
  2. The Indian Copyright Act, 1957; http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/images/pdf/act-of-2000.pdf
  3. Times Internet Ltd vs Jonathan S. And Others; https://indiankanoon.org/doc/28431473/
  4. Mr.Anand Chitipothu vs Inflibnet Centre; https://indiankanoon.org/doc/387663/
  5. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (Chapter 1. SUBJECT MATTER AND SCOPE OF COPYRIGHT) 
  6. Ooey GUI: The Messy Protection of Graphical User Interfaces, Rachel Stigler Northwestern University School of Law,  Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property Volume 12 | Issue 3 Article 3 2014  ( Read this for more detail on Copyright in USA )

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