Research Oct, 04 2014

All about intellect & infringement

Have you ever thought about the fact that what you would do if someone sells their products under your label or uses your logo design without your consent? This is what's referred to as intellectual property rights (IPR) violation. Either people do it del

By Beny Sachdeva
Senior Sub-Editor in web section of Franchise India Holdings Ltd
All about intellect & infringement

When Hidesign, recently sent a legal notice to Woodland, accusing the shoes and accessories maker of infringing copyright laws by copying one of its popular designs. Woodland, which operates 400 stores in the country, too claimed the charges were baseless and flawed. In response, Woodland (Aero Club), the global adventure brand had also filed a defamatory suit for damages amounting to Rs. 10 crore against Hidesign for their fake yet direct allegations of plagiarism and illegal copying of a sling bag design. Based on the defamation notice, the court has issued summons to the Pondicherry based leather bags and accessories maker along with The Economic Times' team that did such uninformed reporting without checking facts, damaging the brand equity among the masses for a respectable brand like Woodland.

Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland Worldwide said: “We have been selling sling bags as part of our accessories portfolio over a decade. The style in question is a basic design that's been in existence across multiple brands for probably, over a century now. It has been adopted by most leading international brands and in no way can be exclusive, especially after such a mass production. In any case, it’s strange to see a brand claiming ownership of an unregistered design.”

Such cases of copyright infringement in retail and franchise business were so far sporadic in India but are gradually increasing because of the awareness.

For an established franchisor who has not yet got his trademark registered or is unaware of the repercussions of not getting it done must expedite the same. Have you ever thought what if some other business men sell the similar products under a new brand name or use your punch line? The above mentioned is referred to as intellectual property rights (IPR) violation. To avoid such misdemeanor, you need to register your trademark, copyright or patent. Here's the difference between the types of intellectual property rights.

A word on IPR

For a lay man, Intellectual property (IP) rights are the legally recognised exclusive rights to creations of the mind. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, trade dress, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets. Globalisation and upgradation in the technology have increased the importance of intellectual property protection for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The intangible nature of intellectual property and the worldwide variation of standard practices create a lot of issues for those businesses who seek to protect their inventions, brands, and business methods. The three most common vehicles for protecting intellectual property are patents, trademarks, and copyrights.


A patent grants an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. An invention is a solution to a specific technological problem, which may be a product or a process.


A copyright gives the creator of an original work exclusive right to it, usually for a limited time. Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or "works". Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.


A trademark is a recognisable sign, design or expression which distinguishes products or services of a particular trader from the similar products or services of other traders.

How can an investor or third party violate it

In franchising business, IPR is of utmost significance. As per Lisa Sen, Consultant, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, London:  “From our experience most of the IP violations have been in relation to trademarks and breach of confidentiality and trade secrets. There is, however, the potential for breach of copyright laws in franchising, if for instance the Operational or other Manuals are copied; unauthorised use or copying of software, or unauthorised copying of publications belonging to the franchisor. Sometimes the use of a fictional or graphical character is licensed as part of the franchise, if that is used in an unauthorised manner outside the parameters of the license or by a third party, then it can be a violation of copyright or image rights.”

Dr Vikram, Master Franchisee of Snap Fitness, a US-based fitness brand is of view that:  “Copyright laws should be very strong so that the brands are protected. Brand owners invest a lot of time and money in brand building and if the laws are not strong, it becomes very easy for” me too” products to come into the market and try to steal market space overnight. At Snap we focus on quality of service to stand out.”

 As per Rahul Taneja, Project Officer, Intellectual Property Facilitation Centre for MSMEs, Haryana State Council for Science & Technology: “There are four basic advantages to copyright registration. Registration allows a copyright holder to sue an infringer in federal court, an option that is not available to copyright holders that have not registered. It serves as an automatic indication that the registrant is the actual owner of the copyright, making it the infringer's responsibility to prove differently. It enables the copyright holder to sue an infringer for statutory damages so that he doesn't have to prove that the infringer's use of the work actually damaged him. Finally, registration provides notice to the world of the copyright holder's claim of rights, preventing an infringer from claiming that he used the work innocently, without knowledge of the creator's existing interests.”


The bottom line is that the issue of safeguarding the intellectual property rights has certainly gained significance. With so many brands foraying in India and as a developing nation, we can't afford to ignore the intellectual property rights. It is high time that all businessmen across India must spread the IPR viral to safeguard their rights.

Industrial design rights

An industrial design right protects the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. An industrial design consists of the creation of a shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color, or combination of pattern and color in three-dimensional form containing aesthetic value. An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft.

Related: Masters of franchising

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