Advertising slogans merit copyright protection

By Sai Priya Chatterjee, Lall Lahiri & Salhotra

Advertising is a powerful tool in which businesses invest a lot of resources. A successful advertising campaign can make a business profitable, give it market leadership and create goodwill and reputation among consumers.

Periodically in India, as elsewhere, advertising campaigns launched by competing businesses lead to litigation. Most such disputes allege infringement or passing off of copyright or trademark in advertisements or a derogatory reference to a competitor’s product or advertisement.

Not ‘literary works’

In all cases involving advertising slogans, Indian courts have consistently held that they are not “literary works” within the meaning of the Copyright Act, 1957, and cannot be protected under the act. However, most such disputes alleged not just misuse of slogans, but also similarity of presentation of advertisements or elements of disparagement, and were decided on these grounds. The position with regard to advertising slogans remained that they were not protected under copyright law and at best can be protected under the law of passing off.

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Sai Priya Chatterjee is a managing associate at Lall Lahiri & Salhotra, which is an IP boutique based in Gurgaon.


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