Understanding the interrelation and interface between the Trademark Copyright and Design Act

Understanding the interrelation and interface between the Trademark Copyright and Design Act


The intellectual property right are the rights which subsists on the property which is the intangible creation of the human intellect, for the protection of the human intellect and its original creation there are certain regimes under which they fall, considering it there are copyright protection for the original artistic work, the Trademark protection are the element of branding, and the design protection is provided to secure the appearance of the product.

The interface is difficult to completely negate i.e. if considering a branded T-shirt which consist of the trademark of the brand the copyright over the drawing on the t-shirt and design when it undergoes the multiple industrial process. Which becomes a more difficult task while assigning the class in which such intellectual property would fall, thus it becomes very important to understand the intention of the legislature while framing the act.


  • TRADEMARK- Are the elements of branding, a trademark is a sign which distinguishes the goods or services of one trade from those of other traders.
  • COPYRIGHT – copyright law primarily protects original expression in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work. Including things like novels, software, plays, songs, paintings, sculptures and photographs. Protection is only available when there has been copying of the original expression.
  • DESIGN- The law protects the appearance of the product; this includes consumer goods and industrial articles, but also example, packing and graphic symbols. Design protection enables business to protect the unique appearance of their product.
  • PATENT- It protects the novelty over invention or discoveries like pharmaceutical drugs, complex machinery or advanced software. By providing others from using or imprinting the invention.

Interface of Copyright and Design Act

The interface and interrelation among the design act and copyright act was argued by the Division Bench in the case of Rajesh Masrani v. Tahliani Design and the other one by the single judge in the Microfibers v. Giridhar. The present two issues have highlighted the issue regarding the interrelation of design and copyright act.

The issue focused in Microfibers v. Giridhar case was regarding distinction laid down between “artistic work” as defined in the Copyright Act and “designs” as defined in the Design Act of 1911 and Design Act of 2000.

Division Bench conclusion

The Division Bench with due consideration interpreted two acts simultaneously and laid down the aspects which harmonized both the Acts. With reference to the case of Mattel and Dart Industries, the argument put forward was in regards to the “copyright vested in the drawings and mould, and the purpose of imitating the final product, and with regards to section 15 it was argued that only the ‘final product’ would fall within its ambit, but not the drawing and moulds.

The overlap between Trademark and Design Act

The conflict over the Design Act and Trademark Act arises, due to the issue of overprotection, i.e. the creator of the product seeks to protect the original creation for the indefinite period to have the monopoly over the creation and this urge of ultimate benefits compel the creator to have the protection under multiple heads of the IP regimes. It would be wrong to state that the overlap of the Intellectual Property is not considered through its infringement, as Prof. Basheer pointed out that the various IP regimes have varying standards for infringement. Therefore, it would be wrong to assume that protection under Trademark law ensures the same quality of protection as other regimes.

The aim of the creator to have evergreen protection as well as monopoly over the product the creator seeks protection under multiple IPR regimes.

India and its stand

The case of Greenlight Planet India pvt. Ltd vs. Gee Lighting Technology the Delhi High Court dismissed an application, the facts of the case as followed, the plaintiff instituted a suit for permanent injunction restraining Passing off of its goods under the Trademark GEELITE.

In the present case the Court looked into the matter by evaluating the rules of CPC as well as Design and Trademark, but surprisingly, the court merely applied the Order II, Rule 2 of CPC and did not analyse the relevant provisions of the Trademark and the Design Act.

The main issue in regards to the present case was whether the design registration still subsisted or not. In the landmark judgment the special bench of five judges of Hon’ble High Court held that a composite suit that joined two causes of action, one for infringement of a registered design and the other for passing off of the plaintiffs’ goods, was held to be maintainable.

Certainly, the stand taken by the High court is similar to the stand taken when there is a conflict in b/w other IPR regimes.


To confer the legal protection on a design as a registered design certain requirement need to be imposed. The Indian Designs Act 2000 was enacted to bring the Indian law in consonance with the TRIPs Agreement yet it has failed to gather required legislative and judicial intervention at

some stage, unlike other jurisdictions such as the U.K. wherein much legislative activity to address the inequities of artistic copyright in functional products have taken place.

Overlapping protection should be a cause for great concern. Expansion of IP rights through overlapping protection undermines intellectual property policy and renders nearly impossible the ability to evaluate the effects of the intellectual property laws. If the expansion of rights is to continue, enlarging rights within each area of intellectual property law is much more preferable to the overlapping patchwork of rights that exists Legislative efforts are required to eliminate the existing overlap and, perhaps more importantly and more realistically, attempt to avoid creating overlaps in the future.

Author: Sweksha Beniwal,
vivekananda institute of professional studies, 3rd year, B.A LLB

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