Sholay Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. & Anr V. Sholay.com
The Delhi High Court recently decreed a suit filed by Sholay Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. back in 2002 against defendants that were infringing on the title of the iconic film, SHOLAY.
The defendants had unauthorizedly registered the domain name SHOLEY.COM, published a magazine under the name ‘Sholay’ and were selling merchandise bearing the movie’s name and iconic movie scenes and characters. In their defense, the defendants contended that the website will be used by educated people, resulting in a lower likelihood of confusion, and, in any case, comprises a dictionary word ‘SHOLAY’ which means “burning coal”. The court, while recognizing that ‘SHOLAY’ is one of the biggest, record-breaking films that has ever been produced in the history of Indian cinema, observed that it would be simple for anyone, not just educated people, to establish a link between the movie, SHOLAY, and the defendant’s website. The use of identical logos, marks and names from the film further complicated matters. It also observed that certain films cross the boundaries of just being ordinary words, and the title of the film ‘Sholay’ is one of them.
It concluded that movie titles are entitled to protection under trademark law and, thereby, restrained the defendants from using any variation of the mark or name ‘Sholay’ on the Internet or otherwise, including use as a metatag in the source code. Also taking note that the defendants had, clearly, adopted the name in a mala fide and dishonest manner and contested the matter for 20 years, the court imposed a whooping INR 25 lacs as costs and damages on the defendants.