IP News Updates (September 2021)

1. Sony & Zee join hands to create an Indian media giant

Sony Pictures Networks India (“Sony”) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (“Zee”) entered into an exclusive agreement to merge the two companies. The merger proposal came shortly after Invesco Developing Market Fund; the largest shareholder of Zee, sought for the removal of Punit Goenka as the CEO of Zee, and in turn, appointed six directors to gain control over Zee. The entry of Sony has been termed as a “white knight” move as it would hold a majority 52.93% stake in the combined company. A binding agreement between the two companies will be entered into after customary due diligence, and regulatory approvals. Sony currently dominates the sports and Hindi segments with international viewership, while Zee has a stronghold over regional channels. The merger of the two companies will create a media giant in India, which will be at par with Star India which currently dominates the Indian media sector.


2. India ranked 46th by WIPO in Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index ranks world economies on the basis of their innovation capabilities based on approximately 80 indicators. In 2019, India ranked 52nd, and in 2020 India ranked 48th. This year, India jumped to the 46th place out of 132 countries. Switzerland, Sweden, the US, and the UK were ranked at the top. India ranked second among the lower-middle-income group and first among the economies in Central and Southern Asia.


3. Swimsuit model files $10 million lawsuit against Twitter for copyright infringement

"Star Illustrated" swimsuit model Genevieve Morton filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against Twitter, TweetDeck (a social media application for managing Twitter accounts), and Magic Pony Technology (a photo-algorithm company acquired by Twitter in 2016) for infringing her copyright and sought at least $10 million in damages. The model alleged that the saliency algorithm used by Twitter to highlight the most important parts of the picture as perceived by the human eye cropped and altered her images. This created derivative works of her images without her permission. The model had sued Twitter last year for a similar case where unauthorized images of the model were circulated long after her request for a take-down. The case is still ongoing.


4. Salman Khan moves court against Selmon Bhoi, a parody game based on his life

Parody Studios Pvt. Ltd. released a game on Google Playstore called Selmon Bhoi which was alleged to be based on the hit-and-run incident in which Salman Khan was involved. Salman alleged that the game was infringing on his right to privacy in addition to tarnishing his image. Moreover, he had not consented to the use of his identity and image in the game. Based on these grounds, the Civil Court in Mumbai restrained the makers of the game from disseminating, launching, re-launching, recreating the game, or any content relating to the actor.



5. Nestle's 3D trademark denied protection by Swiss Court

In 2011, Nestle had initiated trademark infringement proceedings against Ethical Coffee Company (“ECC”) which had launched biodegradable coffee capsules compatible with the Nespresso coffee machine system. Nestle argued that ECC infringed the 3D trademark of Nespresso Capsules and that ECC should thus be prohibited from commercializing its capsules. In a recent judgment, the Swiss Federal Tribunal rejected Nestle’s stand by stating that the design of the pod was “ordinary” and “unmemorable” based on a study that found that only 33% of respondents could correctly identify the Nespresso branded coffee capsule from the photographs.


6. Disney files lawsuits in an attempt to retain full rights over Marvel characters


Disney filed several lawsuits on behalf of Marvel Entertainment against the heirs of several creators to retain full control and rights over certain characters such as Spider-man, Iron man, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, and Captain Marvel. The lawsuits filed by Disney were in response to the copyright termination notices served by the heirs/estates of the creators seeking to reclaim the rights related to the characters - many of which have today, become the star revenue earners for Disney. These copyright termination notices were filed in pursuance of a provision in the U.S. Copyright law that allows the authors of works to reclaim copyright after a certain duration. Although Disney has argued that these characters were created as works-made-for-hire and hence the provision doesn’t apply, the lawyer for the creators’ heirs has argued that the interpretation of works-made-for-hire is flawed and needs to be rectified. If the copyright termination suit filed by the creator’s heirs is successful, Marvel would be required to share the ownership and profits with the creators’ heirs.


7. Assam & Manipur get new GI tags

The Hathei chilli of Manipur, commonly known as Sirarakhong chilly, has a distinct flavor and thrives well only in the climatic conditions of the Sirarakhong village in Manipur. The Tamenglong mandarin oranges are known for their large size, high juice content, and unique sweet and sour flavor. These two plants native to Manipur were recently granted the GI tag. Following these, the Judima rice wine of Assam, made from sticky rice and traditional herbs was also granted a GI tag. The intention behind applying for GI tags is to increase the income of local farmers, tribes, cultivators, and manufacturers.

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