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Personality rights means a right of person related to his or her personality. They can be protected under right to privacy or as a property of a person. This is important to mostly celebrities because people use a celebrity name or a photograph to advertise their trade and this usage influences their sales. Anyone can misuse a celebrity’s name or a photograph very easily for their trade, therefore it is important for a celebrity to register a trademark of their name to save their personality rights.
Position of Personality Rights In Indian Law
In India, the closest statute to protect personality rights is Article 21 of the Constitution of India under right to privacy and right to publicity. There is no statute or law that protects personality rights in India per se. Nevertheless, these days India also started recognising these rights through many significant judgements. One of the most important judgements related to personality rights was given in ICC Development (International) Ltd. vs. Arvee Enterprises, by the Delhi High Court in 2003, it was held that:
“The right of publicity has evolved from the right of privacy and can inhere only in an individual or in any indicia of an individual’s personality like his name, personality trait, signature, voice. etc. An individual may acquire the right of publicity by virtue of his association with an event, sport, movie, etc”.
Further, in TITAN Industries vs. M/s Ramkumar Jewellers on 26th April 2012, the defendant used an identical advertisement hoarding to the Plaintiffs’ advertisement that featured the famous couple Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mrs. Jaya Bachchan. Further, the defendant also did not seek any permission or got into any agreements with either the couple or the plaintiff. Thus, the Delhi High Court granted the permanent injunction explaining the right to publicity:
“When the identity of a famous personality is used in advertising without their permission, the complaint is not that no one should not commercialize their identity but that the right to control when, where and how their identity is used should vest with the famous personality. The right to control commercial use of human identity is the right to publicity”.
Also, in case of Mr. Shivaji Rao Gaikwad (aka Rajinikanth) vs. M/s. Varsha Productions an Interim injunction was passed against the release of a film “Main Hoon Rajinikanth” by Varsha Productions by referring to the judgements from the above-mentioned cases.
The most recent case regarding the personality rights is Mr. Gautam Gambhir vs D.A.P & Co. & Anr. on 13th December 2017, wherein the defendant was using Gautam Gambhir’s name in running their lounge and restaurant, which was mistaken by people to be associated with the said famous personality. Thus, the applicant sued the defendant…
In this case the interim injunction was not granted as the defendant’s name was also Gautam Gambhir, apparently, he has to carry on his business in his name and he neither claimed that the business is related to the cricketer nor he displayed any pictures of the cricketer anywhere. He very prominently displayed his own pictures everywhere to show his own identity. And when the logo of the restaurants was being registered no objection was raised by anyone. Seemingly it was decided that the defendant has not made any use of the reputation of the plaintiff’s name in his trade. Therefore, the interim injunction was not granted, and all the pending applications were disposed of.
However, the case is again under consideration by Division bench of Delhi High Court which seems to focus more on Personality rights. Further, a notice was issued on 17th January, 2018 to the defendants DAP & Co for which the reply is expected on 20 March 2018
From the above discussion it can concluded that, only the illegal and unrightful usage of the personality rights with unjust intentions are punishable under the law. To be more precise, it is clear by the above discussed case laws that a celebrity’s name can not be used for any commercial use without any prior consent of the concerned celebrity, as these celebrities acquire their brand value through their hard work. Therefore, any use of their name or photographs that is commercially utilized, must be exploited by the celebrities themselves and no one else.
Author: M. Sai Krupa, Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2003 (26) PTC 245
2012 (50) PTC 486 (Del)
2015 (62) PTC 351 (Madras)