CHARECTER MERCHANDISING AND CASE LAWS ON CHARECTER MERCHANDISING

DEFINITION OF CHARACTER MERCHANDISING  

Character merchandising became popular in the 1930s when Walt Disney Studios began licencing their most famous characters, such as Mickey, Minnie, and Donald, and later, a department store specialising in the exploitation of such characters was opened by one of its employees, who miraculously succeeded in obtaining a number of licences for the manufacture and distribution of such characters.The growth of the advertising industry throughout time has shown how fame of well-known people may raise awareness and substantially enhance enthusiasm for specific products and services. Characters for character marketing are mostly drawn from literary, dramatic, and cinematic works. In recent years, industrialists have decided to create real and fictional characters in the form of clothing such as costumes, character prints on clothing such as t-shirts, famous dialogues from any movie/series/cartoons, and so on, in order to popularise goods and services, and this generates a lot of revenue. As a result, character merchandise has exploded in popularity, thanks to a variety of causes.

 

CASE LAWS ON CHARACTER MERCHANDISING 

  • Diamond Comic Ltd. & anr. v. Raja Pocket Books & Ors.

In this case, the defendant, the proprietor of a well-known figure known as “Shakitman,” had assigned the rights to the plaintiff to transform his persona into comics. After a period of time in which the character had grown in popularity as a result of the plaintiff’s marketing and had established a name in the comics business, the defendants began producing their own comics. The Honourable Delhi High Court ruled that because the defendant had given his character to the plaintiff, he was not allowed to exploit it by creating his own comics, as this would be considered copyright infringement.

  • Leo Burnett v. Star India Pvt. Ltd

This case concerns the TV show “kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi,” in which the Defendants created a commercial for the consumer product “Tide Detergent,” which was telecast with the title “kyonki bahu bhi kabhi saas banegi” and characters that are similar to J.D.’s grandmother, mother-in-law, and daughter-in-law.

The plaintiffs alleged that copyright was infringed upon because an average viewer would assume that the plaintiffs are endorsing the defendants’ products and that there is a connection between the plaintiffs in the series and the defendants’ product. 

The court stated, “The figures to be merchandised must have gained some public recognition, that is, acquired a type of autonomous life and public consciousness for themselves independent of the original product or the milieu/area in which they appear.” The substantial similarity test was used in this case, and it was determined that the two works are quantitatively and qualitatively unique, with no significant copying or similarity between them.As a consequence, the defendants won the case, claiming that no infringement had occurred and that no cause of action had formed. According to the Court, the Plaintiffs’ allegations of passing off and character merchandising were of a future potential, and no genuine or serious damage had been proved.

  • O And M Kleeman Ltd. v. King Features Syndicate Inc.

This is a case regarding the cartoon character “Popeye” from the United Kingdom. The owners of the rights of Popeye’s drawings have given permission to a few companies to make 3D reproductions of the paintings. Another company, who had not been awarded the licence, was importing and selling 3D models of this figure. The plaintiff sued the defendant, saying that the defendant had infringed on their copyright. According to the defendant, the plaintiffs had not copyrighted their designs under the Copyright Act of 1911. Copyright infringement had occurred, according to the court. This is because copyright does not protect ideas or concepts, but it does cover everything that is communicated. In this case, Popeye, the well-known character, was in the form of a sketch, and so was entitled to protection.

 

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