What is the appropriate IP law for protecting names and titles in India?

We are often asked, “How do I copyright my name?”

The answer is, names (whether personal or business) and titles (of movies, songs, books, etc.) are protected under the trademark law and not the copyright law. The jurisprudence behind this was very aptly explained by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Krishika Lulla & Ors v. Shyam Vithalrao Devkatta & Anr. While deciding whether the name of the movie in question could be copyrighted, the Court observed that “…a title does not qualify for being described as a work. It is incomplete in itself and refers to the work that follows”. In other words, names/titles are not deemed to be significant enough to be given copyright protection.

To seek protection of names and titles under the trademark law, it must be shown that the name/title serves as a source identifier. To put it simply, the name or title should be exclusively associated with the goods/services of the entity which seeks protection under the trademark law. To illustrate, common names like Tim Smith or Ram Kumar would likely not be granted protection (unless of course it can be shown that the public at large associates these names with a particular good or service), but names like Shah Rukh Khan and Giorgio Armani would easily be granted protection because the public at large associates these names with particular goods and services. Similarly, a title like ‘Basics of Physics’ would not be granted protection, but ‘Harry Potter’ would.

This position also appears to be followed by various other jurisdictions, including USA, New Zealand and the UK.

What is the appropriate IP law for protecting names and titles in India?

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