Copyright Case Brief – Eastern Book Company v. DB Modak

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Citation – (2008) 1 SCC 1
Eastern Book Company A (1) and Eastern Publishers Pvt. A (2) are the Appellant (A) who are into publishing law books. The appellant publish law report containing Supreme Court cases by the name of “Supreme Court Cases (SCC)”. The case are procured from the register of the Supreme Court. The judgement are copy edited and several inputs such as font, paragraphing are made so as to make it user friendly. Along with the changes in the judgement, it also has head notes and foot notes which are prepared by the A (3) Surendra Malik. The Respondents(R) have created a software which is published on a CD ROM by the name of Grand Pix and The Law and the R’s have copied the whole module from the SCC on to the CD ROM.

Procedural History: EBC moved to the court before the single bench judge of the Delhi High Court claiming for temporary injunction as the R’s has constituted infringement by copying the copy edited version of the judgement prepared by EBC. The Single Judge Bench did not grant injunction and held that the edited judgement was not copyright and hence there is no infringement. The R conceded that the A had a copyright over the headnote and the footnote and hence agrees to not copy them. Aggrieved by the decision the A moved to Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, the court also didn’t grant them temporary injunction and allowed them to sell the CD ROM and held that by making some changed the original judgement it does not change the characteristic of the judgement and hence it doesn’t constitute as original work. The court didn’t accept the A case and hence forth the present decree lie.

Laws Involved: Sections 13, 14 and 52(1)(iv)(q), Copyright Act, 1957

What shall be the standard of originality in a derivative work to get copyright protection and what requirement need to be there for its fulfilment?
2) Whether the whole copy-edited version of the judgement will be entitled for copyright or only entitled to some of the inputs made in the judgement?

The court gave the decision in the favour of A’s. The court held that for a derivative work to have copyright protection it should show that the derivative work should be more than a just mere copy of the original work and it should have authors own independent skill, labour and capital. The court stated that copyright has nothing to do with literary merit of the work. The court just need to evaluate whether the skill employed is not of trivial or negligible but substantial. The court also held that the R’s should not copy the paragraphs made by the A for its internal referencing and nor should the R’s use the view of the judges regarding their view as to whether they have a dissenting or concurring in the Case.

The court came to this conclusion after taking into account whether the derivative work is original work of the author and whether he has spent independent skill, labour and judgement in preparing it and that it is just not a mere copy of the original work. Secondly the judges have also taken into account that the changes made by the author in the derivative work are of substantial work and is not of trivial nature. Thirdly the judges have applied the principal of “Sweat of the brow” which means that the author deserves to be reward for the skill. Fourthly the court referred to the principle of minimal degree of creativity that states that there should be a minimal level of creativity in the derivative work in deciding the issue whether the copy edited judgement would qualify as original work or not.

Rule:It is derived from this case that even in a derivative work if the author has applied his own skill, labour and judgement then it will be entitled to copyright protection. The court in such cases need not look in the literary merit of the work but just that the some skill is involved. In case where the copy edited version is created then the changed that require a skill or judgement should be considered original work and should be entitled to copyright protection.

The Court did grant interim relief to the plaintiff-appellants by directing that though the respondent shall be entitled to sell their CD-ROMS with the text of the judgments of the Supreme Court along with their own head notes, editorial notes. It was further directed by the courts that the respondents shall not use the paragraphs made by the appellants in their copyedited version for internal references and their editor’s judgment regarding the opinions expressed by the Judges by using phrases like concurring’, ‘partly dissenting’, etc. on the basis of reported judgments in SCC. The judgment of the High Court was modified to the extent that in addition to the interim relief already granted by the High Court, the above-mentioned additional relief to the appellants was also granted.

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Copyright Case Brief – Nichols v Universal

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Citation – 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930)

Facts/Procedural History: Anne Nichols (plaintiff) wrote a play called the “Abie’s Irish Rose.” The play was about an Irish father and a Jewish father whose children married each other in secret because they feared that their fathers would not have approved. The underlying theme of the play was the hatred between the fathers for each other and for the relationship of their children. The animosity between the fathers was based on their religious differences. Eventually, the children had their own children and as a result, the fathers reconciled. Much humor and comedy was followed in the play. After the play had exhausted its Broadway debut, Universal Pictures Corporation (Universal) (the defendant) made a movie called “The Cohens and the Kellys.” The movie was also based on an Irish Catholic and a Jewish family whose children wed. The fathers similarly did not get along, but not due to their differing religions, more on account of the general animosity of the Jewish father, which is to say that only one of the fathers held the story grudge. Also similarly, the children had their own child, and the fathers eventually reconciled. However, in the movie, the grandchild had nothing to do with the reconciliation. The main themes throughout “The Cohens and the Kellys” were family finances and the relationship between wealth, generosity and how honesty brings families together. Religion did not play a role. The plaintiff asserted copyright infringement in the lawsuit based on the premise that defendant used similar story elements. The district court found in favor of Universal. Nichols appealed.

Issue: Whether the defendant’s film (The Cohens and the Kellys) had infringed the plaintiff’s copyright in the play (Abie’s Irish Rose) by using similar elements?

Holding/Judgment: The Appellate Court noted that a work could be a copy of an earlier work even if it didn’t copy the literal text, but the two works needed to be substantially similar. The Court also found that although the play and the movie shared a number of the similar themes and general plots, the similarities general things, universal concepts, and stereotypical characters (stock characters). There was nothing unique to Nichols’ play that was found in Universal’s movie.

Rationale: The court based its decisions on the Scenes å faire doctrine which reasons that copyright does not extent to incidents, character, or settings that are as a practical matter, indispensable or at least industry standard in the behavior/common practice of a given topic. So for example, all police shows are going to have the same stereotypical characters, but those similar characters are no copyright violations.

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Copyright Case Brief – R.G. Anand v. Delux Films

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Citation – (1978) 4 SCC 118: AIR 1978 SC 1613

Facts: The Plaintiff (P) wrote a script for a play of the name “Hum Hindustani” in 1953 and it was enacted in New Delhi theatres in that year. The play was based on the concept of Provincialism, and was well received so P started considering the possibility of filming it. The Defendant (D) approached P in 1954 after an eminent scriptwriter told him about the play when D was considering making a movie on the topic of Provincialism. On hearing the script D told P that he would inform P of his decision upon return to Mumbai. In 1955 D announced the production of a movie called “New Delhi”, after watching the movie, one of the artists in the play told P that it was similar to the play. P wrote to D about his concerns that the movie was a copy of the play, and D told P that the movie was on the topic of Provincialism but it was not based on the play as the play in itself wasn’t enough for a movie and the characters and story treatment, etc. was very different from the play. P read newspaper comments about the movie and then later watched the movie himself and felt that the movie was entirely based on the play. He found that the movie had one character with the same name as in his play. P therefore filed a suit of the infringement of his copyrights.

Procedural history
: The Delhi High Court held that the similarities between the movie and the play were insignificant and although both the copyrightable subject matters were based on provincialism, the stories and portrayal in the movie were completely different from the play. Dissatisfied with the holding, P appealed to the Supreme Court.

1. Whether the cinematographic film was colourable imitation/ substantial or material copy of the play?
2. Whether a name of a person in a copyrightable subject matter can also be copyrighted?

1. The Supreme Court held that the movie although based on the same concept, wasn’t a copy of the play. Therefore, there was no copyright infringement by D.
2. The court also held that the name “Subramaniam” which appeared in both the movie and the play wasn’t copyrightable; therefore the use of the name wouldn’t result in copyright infringement.

Rationale: The similarities and coincidences as observed by the court were insignificant and were not sufficient to raise an inference of colourable imitation. The play relied heavily on the idea of provincialism; it did not touch the other aspects of “caste” and “sati” that the movie had explored. The Supreme Court also observed that the three aspects in the film were completely integral to the movie and could not be divorced from each other without affecting the beauty and the continuity of the script. The story in the movie also went beyond the plot represented in the play. The dissimilarities in the between the movie and the play were so material that it was not possible to say that P’s copyright had been infringed.

Rule: The Supreme Court laid down 7 rules, after considering the precedents, to determine if there was a copyright infringement:
1. “There can be no copyright in an idea, subject matter, themes, plots or historical or legendary facts and violation of the copyright in such cases is confined to the form, manner and arrangement and expression of the idea by the author of the copyright work.”
2. “In order to be actionable the copy must be a substantial and material one which at once leads to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty of an act of piracy.”
3. “Seeing the reader, spectator or the viewer after having read or seen both the works is clearly of the opinion and gets an unmistakable impression that the subsequent work appears to be a copy of the original.” If the answer is in the positive then it can be concluded that there is a copyright infringement.
4. “Where the theme is the same but is presented and treated differently so that the subsequent work becomes a completely new work, no question of violation of copyright arises.”
5. “If there are also material and broad dissimilarities which negative the intention to copy the original and the coincidences appearing in the two works are clearly incidental no infringement of the copyright comes into existence.”
6. “It must be proved by clear and cogent evidence after applying the various tests laid down by the case laws.”
7. “Although unlike a stage play a film has a much broader prospective, a wider field and a bigger background where the defendants can by introducing a variety of incidents give a colour and complexion different from the manner in which the copyrighted work has expressed the idea. But if the viewer gets a totality of impression that the film is by and large a copy of the original play, violation of the copyright may be said to be proved.”

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Copyright Case Brief – Baker v. Selden

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Citation –  101 U.S. 99 (1879)

Facts: Charles Selden (P), obtained a copyright of the book “Selden’s Condensed Ledger or Book-Keeping Simplified” in 1859 and this book explained a unique and improved system of book-keeping with a distinct arrangement of columns and headings. In 1867, Baker, the defendant, produced another book using a similar system but the arrangement of columns and their headings were different.

Procedural History: A suit was filed against the D for infringing copyrights of Selden’s book as Baker had used a system that resembled the one used in Selden’s work and the lower court ruled in favor of P. The D then appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Did the D infringe the copyright?
2) Did Selden have an exclusive right to the use of the system explained in his book?
No, the D did not infringe copyright of the book “Selden’s Condensed Ledger or BookKeeping Simplified”.
2) No, Selden did not have an exclusive right to the use of the system explained in his book.
Rationale: The court reasoned that an author can explain the truths of a science or the methods of an art through his book and can obtain a copyright for his work but this copyright is limited to the expression of the method or system and does not extend to the idea or the system itself. If the author wants to protect the system/idea he will have to be granted a patent for his method/idea and protecting an idea under the copyright law would amount to fraud on the public.
Copyright protects the book as a whole and the expression of an idea through that book. The very object of publishing a book is to impart some knowledge to the public and if people were made liable of infringement each time they used the idea described in the book, it would defeat the purpose. Copyright is mainly concerned with publishing and selling rights and does not give the author exclusive rights over an idea alone.
In this case, Baker was not infringing the copyrights of Selden’s book as he borrowed the idea from Selden’s book but expressed it in a different manner by ensuring that the columns and headings to those columns were different.

Rule: Idea-Expression Dichotomy: A copyright can be obtained only over a particular expression of an idea, it does not protect the idea that underlies that expression and this is what limits copyrights and differentiates it from patents. An idea/art/method can be patented whereas the expression of an idea/art/method can be copyrighted.

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Copyright Case Brief – Feist Publication, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company

Citation – 499 U.S. 340, Supreme Court of the United States of America

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Facts: Rural Telephone Service Company is a certified telephonic service provider operating in Kansas. Owing to a state regulation it is subjected to print and issue a telephone directory consisting information about individual subscriber in the white pages and advertisements of subscribers on the yellow pages. Feist Publication is a publication company which specializes in area-wide telephone directories. Unlike a typical directory, which covers a specific area, Feist publishes a directory which covers a much larger geographical area. Rural Inc. is the sole provider of telephone services in that particular area in Kansas, it obtains the information for the directory quite easily. However, Feist just being a publication house lacks independent access to any subscriber information therefore approaches individual telephone service provider companies for information. 10 out of 11 companies shared the information such that Feist could publish it in their respective directory but Rural Inc. trying to attract the subscribers in its area for yellow page advertisements did not. Despite being denied the information of the subscribers in that particular region of Kansas, Feist Publication went ahead and used the white pages listing of Rural’s directory without their consent but added additional information such as address which was not present in the Rural’s version. Due to the presence of 4 fictitious listings that Rural had inserted into its directory to detect copying, Feist was sued by them for copyright infringement.
Procedural History: Rural Inc. sued Feist Publication for copyright infringement in the District Court for the District of Kansas stating that Feist’s employees were obliged to travel door-to door or conduct a telephone survey to discover the information which they had copied. District Court granted a summary judgment to Rural, explaining that “courts have consistently held that telephone directories are copyrightable”. An appeal was preferred from the judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit which affirmed the decision of the District Court. The Supreme Court granted the writ of certiorari to finally adjudicate upon the matter.
Laws involved: *US COPYRIGHT LAWS* § 102 (a) and (b) of the Copyrights Act, 1976 which states that “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”

Section 101 of the Copyrights Act, 1976 provides that a copyright is “a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an orginal work of authorship”

Issues: Whether the copyright in Rural’s directory protects the names, towns, and telephone numbers copied by Feist. Analysis: The Supreme Court after looking at the Copyrights Act emphasized that the statute identifies three distinct elements and requires each to be met for a work to qualify as a copyrightable compilation: (1) the collection and assembly of pre-existing materials, facts, or data; (2) the selection, coordination, or arrangement of those materials, and (3) the creation, by virtue of the particular selection, coordination, or arrangement, as an “original” work of authorship. Quoting the case of Mill Music¸469 U.S., at 164, the Supreme Court states that the “this tripartite conjunctive structure is self-evident, and should be assumed to ‘accurately express the legislative purpose.’ ” In the field of Copyright law, facts are not copyrightable as they are a product of mere discovery but the compilation thereof in different arrangements would be copyrightable as it satisfies the originality requirement (“an original work of authorship”). Therefore, in determining whether a fact-based work in an original work of authorship, it must be tested on the manner in which the collected facts have been selected, coordinated and arranged. For every arrangement of facts to past the muster, it must be selected, coordinated and arranged “in such a way” as to render the work as a whole original. The raw data which Rural had certainly did not satisfy the originality requirement. Rural Inc. may have been the first to discover and report the names, towns and telephone numbers of tis subscribers, but this data does not “owe its origin” to Rural. Rather, these bits of information are un-copyrightable facts; they existed before Rural Inc. reported them and would have continued to exist if Rural Inc. had never published a telephonic directory. Also, Rural did not truly “select” to publish the names and telephone numbers of its subscribers; rather it was required to do so by the Kansas Corporation Commissions as part of its monopoly franchise. Accordingly, it can be presumed that the selection was dictated by state law, not by Rural. Conclusion: The names, towns and telephones numbers copied by Feist were not original to Rural and therefore were not protected by the copyright in Rural’s combined white and yellow pages directory. As a constitutional matter, copyright protects only those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity. The alphabetic arrangement of subscriber’s information does not afford protection from copying as it utterly lacks originality. Therefore, Feist listings cannot constitute infringement.

Decision: The decision of the Court of Appeals is Reversed.

Ratio: For a piece of work to get protection under copyrights law, the following conditions must be met –
a) the collection and assembly of pre-existing materials, facts, or data;
b) the selection, coordination, or arrangement of those materials, and
c) the creation, by virtue of the particular selection, coordination, or arrangement, as an “original” work of authorship

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Copyright Case Brief – University of London Press, Limited v. University Tutorial Press, Limited.

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Citation –  [1916 U. 119.] [1916] 2 Ch. 601

Facts: The examiners (Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson) were appointed for a matriculation examination of the University of London, a condition of appointment being that any copyright in the examination papers should belong to the University. The University agreed with the plaintiff company (University of London Press, Limited) to assign the copyright, and by deed purported to assign it to the plaintiff company. After the examination the defendant company (University Tutorial Press, Limited) issued a publication containing a number of examination papers (including three which had been set by two examiners who were co-plaintiffs), with criticisms on the papers and answers to questions. The university of London Press, Limited, commenced this action against the Tutorial Press, Limited, for infringement of copyright.

ISSUE I: Are examination papers within the meaning of this Act, ‘literary works’?

HOLDING: The Copyright Act (UK Law) provides for copyright in “every original literary dramatic musical and artistic work”. The term “literary work” has not been defined in the Act but according to the Act, “Literary work’ includes maps, charts, plans, tables and compilations”. It covers work, which is expressed in print, or writing, irrespective of the question whether the quality or style is high. The word “literary” refers to written or printed matter. The papers set by examiners entailed the exercise of brainwork, memory and trained judgment, and even selection of passages from other authors’ works involved careful consideration, discretion and choice and thus “literary works” within the meaning of the present Act.

ISSUE II: Assuming that the papers are “literary work”, the question is whether they are original?

HOLDING: “The word “original” does not mean that the work must be expression of original or inventive thought. Copyright Acts are not concerned with the originality of ideas, but with the expression of thought, and in the case of “literary work”, with the expression of thought in print or writing. The originality, which is required, relates to the expression of the thought. But the Act does not require that the expression must be in an original or novel form, but that the work must not be copied from another work – that it should originate from the author.”
Examiners proved that they had thought out the questions which they set, and that they made notes or memoranda for future questions and drew on those notes for the purposes of the questions, which they set. The papers, which they prepared, originated from themselves, and were, within the meaning of the Act, original. The papers set by Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson are “original literary work” and proper subject for copyright under the Act.

ISSUE III: In whom did the copyright in the examination papers vest when they had been prepared?

HOLDING: The examiner was employed to prepare the papers on the subject in respect of which he was elected or appointed examiner. He had to set papers for September, 1915, and January and June, 1916, and his duty also comprised the perusal of the students’ answers, and the consideration of the marks to be awarded to the answers. For this he was to be paid a lump sum.
He was free to prepare his questions at his convenience so long as they were ready by the time appointed for the examination, and it was left to his skill and

ISSUE IV: Whether the defendants have infringed the copyright in the papers prepared by  Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson?

HOLDING: Examination papers are useful for educational purposes. Recognizing this demand, the plaintiff company published the matriculation papers. With the same object in view, the defendants published the “London Matriculation Directory,” which included the papers on arithmetic and algebra, geometry, and more advanced mathematics, set by Professor Lodge and judgment to decide what questions should be asked, having regard to the syllabus, the book work, and the standard of knowledge to be expected at the matriculation examination. It is true that the University issued instructions to examiners for the conduct of the examination, but these instructions are only regulations framed with a view to securing accuracy in the system of marking. Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson were regularly employed in other educational establishments and were not part of the staff of the London University, and it was not suggested that the other examiners were on the staff of the University. Therefore, the examiner in such circumstances can be appropriately described as in contract for service with the University. The copyright was vested in the examiners, but the University was equitably entitled to it subject to the assignment agreement between the examiner and the University. The University assigned its rights to the plaintiff company, which is now equitably entitled to the copyright.
Mr. Jackson. The defendants on these facts contend that their publication of the three papers set by Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson is a fair dealing with them for the purposes of private study under the Act, and is therefore not an infringement of copyright. It could not be contended that the mere republication of a copyright work was a “fair dealing” because it was intended for purposes of private study; nor, if an author produced a book of questions for the use of students, could another person with impunity republish the book with the answers to the questions. Both publications are intended for educational purposes and for the use of students but the defendants have failed to bring themselves within the protection of the Act. Therefore the plaintiffs ought to succeed so far as the questions prepared by Professor Lodge and Mr. Jackson for the examination in January, 1916, are concerne

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Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Notes – Case Briefs

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1. University of London Press v University Tutorial Press [1916] 2 Ch. 601
2. Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service 499 U.S. 340 (1991)
3. Baker v Selden 101 U.S. 99 (1879)
4. RG Anand v Delux Films AIR 1978 SC 1613
5. Nichols v Universal 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930)
6. Eastern Book Company v. DB Modak (2008) 1 SCC 1
7. CCH Canadian Limited v. Law Society of Upper Canada [2004] 1 SCR 339
8. Ladbroke (Football) Ltd. v William Hill (Football) Ltd. [1964] 1 WLR 273
9. Walter v Lane [1900] AC 539
10. Eastern India Motion Pictures AIR 1977 SC 1443
11. Amar Nath Sehgal v. Union of India 2005 (30) PTC 253 Del
12. Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt. Ltd. (1986) 1987 AIR (Delhi) 13
13. Zee Telefilms v. Sundial Communications (P) Ltd. 2003 (5) BomCR 404
14. Perfect 10, Inc. v., Inc 508 F.3d 1146 (9th Cir, 2007)


15. Biswanath Prasad Radhey Shyam v Hindustan Metal Industries AIR 1982 SC 1444
16. Diamond v. Chakrabarty 447 U.S. 303 (1980)
17. Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents) [2002] 4 S.C.R. 45
18. Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010)
19. Dimminaco A.G. v. Controller of Patents Designs (2002) I.P.L.R. 255
20. Novartis v Union of India AIR 2013 SC 1311
21. Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107 (2013)
22. Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014)
23. University of Utah Research v. Ambry Genetics, Corp. 3 F. Supp. 3d 1213
24. Bayer v Union of India 2013 Indlaw IPAB 20
25. Graver Tank & Manufacturing Co. v. Linde Air Products Co. (Graver Tank II) 339 U.S. 605 (1950)
26. Kirin-Amgen v. Hoechst [2005] RPC 9
27. Ravi Kamal Bali v Kala Tech, 2008 (38) PTC 435 (Bom)



28. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World, Inc 537 F.2d 4 (2d Cir. 1976)
29. Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.
30. Aggarwal Sweet Palace & Ors. V. Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks
31. Imperial Tobacco Company v. Registrar of Trademark, AIR 1968 Cal 582
32. Amritdhara Pharmacy v Satyadeo AIR 1963 SC 449
33. F. Hoffmann-La Roche v Geoffrey Manners AIR 1970 SC 2062
34. Corn Products Refining v. Shangrila Food Products Ltd- AIR 1960 SC 142
35. Benz v Hybo Hindustan AIR 1994 Delhi 239
36. Balkrishna Hatcheries v Nandos Int’l Ltd 2007 (35) PTC 295
37. Cadila Health Care Ltd. v. Cadila Pharmaceuticals 2001 (21) PTC 541 (SC)
38. ITC v. Philip Morris Products 2010 (42) PTC 572 (Del.)
39. Tata Chemicals Ltd. v. Deputy Reg.- 2003 (27) PTC 422 Del
40. Pepsi Co. v Hindustan Coca-Cola Ltd., 2003 (27) PTC 305
41. Dongre v. Whirlpool 1996 PTC (16)
42. Bollinger v Costa Brava Wine Co Ltd [1960] 1 All ER 561
43. Reckitt & Colman v Borden [1990] 1 All E.R. 873
44. Venugopal v Ushodaya (2011) 4 SCC 85
45. Rolex SA v Alex Jewellery Pvt Ltd
46. Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV v. Remington Consumer Products Ltd

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