Intellectual Property Laws of India - An Overview


The Law on the subject is covered by the Copyright Act; the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act; Patents Act and the Designs Act. These are mainly based on the English law on the subject. The law is poised for fundamental changes to meet the international commitment of the Indian Government under the TRIPS/WTO Agreement.

In this article, we briefly describe the existing laws as well as the proposed changes.


Copyright protection in India is available for any literary, dramatic, musical, sound recording and artistic work. The Copyright Act 1957 provides for registration of such works. Although an author's copyright in a work is recognised even without registration, it is advisable to get the same registered since it furnishes prima facie evidence of copyright in a court of law.

Infringement of copyright entitles the owner to remedies of injunction, damages and accounts.

Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (other than a photograph) published within the lifetime of the author subsists for fifty years from the lifetime of the author. An Amendment Bill is on the anvil to extend the term in favour of performers1 (at present twenty five years) to fifty years (in order to bring it in accord with the TRIPS Agreement). The amendment also aims to bring original works relating to satellite broadcasting, computer software and digital technology under copyright protection. With the issuance of the International Copyright Order, 1999,the provisions of Copyright Act have been extended to nationals of all World Trade Organization (WTO) Member countries.

Trade Marks

The law relating to registration of trade marks is governed by the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958. A distinctive mark (as defined) can be registered under the said Act. In case of infringement of registered trademarks, the statutory remedies of injunction, damages, accounts and delivery up of infringing labels and marks are available. An action for "passing-off" would lie in relation to an unregistered mark under certain circumstances.

In order to simplify the law and meet India's international obligations under the TRIPS, a new law called the Trade Marks Act, 1999 has been passed but has not yet been brought into force. Extensive changes have been introduced by the new Act. The major changes are given below:

Definition of a 'mark' is extended to include the shape of goods, packaging, and combination of colours.

Service Marks: These would now be allowed to...

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