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Superstar Rajinikanth moves Court over personality rights


rajinipicIn a highly interesting and novel development in the IP world, internationally acclaimed actor and cultural icon Rajinikanth has approached the Madras High Court to primarily stay the release and screening of the Hindi film ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth’. This is among the few instances where a celebrity has invoked personality rights and its protection against infringement and the first in South India. (One other such instance was Titan Industries v. Ramkumar Jewellers, where the Delhi High Court recognized the personality rights of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Ms. Jaya Bachchan in the context of misleading advertisements)

In this present suit, Shivaji Rao Gaikwad (aka Rajinikanth) v. Varsha Productions, (the points below are from the affidavit and not the order. The order was pronounced yesterday and is not available as yet) the plaintiff has stressed on three main factors.

rajinijoke1First, the stature of the plaintiff as an international celebrity who has one of the largest fan base in the world and who has acquired an super hero image as a result of his larger than life appearance, his gravity-defying stunts (and countless related jokes on the Internet and otherwise, these being just samplers to a very wide collection- When Rajinikanth wants to jump, he pushes earth back and forth due to his gravity ; Rajinikanth got small pox when he was a kid. As a result small pox is now eradicated) and his charismatic expressions/ dialogues. Therefore, being a well-known personality, any use/misuse of his name/ caricature/ image/ style of delivering dialogues would amount to infringement of his personality rights as well as passing off.

Second, the plaintiff has taken a deliberate decision not to commission any biopic featuring him or any other work based on his personal self as he is against such “gross commercialisation of his name and reputation.” Moreover, the plaintiff states that the widespread and unconditional passion/ hysteria generated among his fans by his mere appearance on-screen is such that if a movie releases which misuses his name/ caricature/ image/ style of delivering dialogues,i t would cause considerable confusion as the public would perceive such movie to have his approval. It would also be a violation of the plaintiff’s privacy and might subject him to embarrassment as he does not have any control over the content of the film.

Thirdly, the forthcoming film ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth’ appears to exploit not only the superhero image of the plaintiff but also contains scenes of immoral nature. This is a violation of his personality rights  and amounts to passing off as the plaintiff’s permission was not taken for the same. Moreover, it is defamatory as the scenes of immoral nature are antithetical to the plaintiff’s movies as well as his name/ image among the public.

Moreover, the plaintiff submitted that the respondent had deliberately used the plaintiff’s name/ caricature/ image/ style of delivering dialogues with a mala fide intention to derive illicit benefits based upon the goodwill emanating from the well known personality status of the plaintiff.

Thus, the plaintiff submitted that all three requirements for an injunction were satisfied in this case.

prima facie case existed in favour of the plaintiff as the reputation and goodwill of the plaintiff is such that the name ‘Rajinikanth’ is only associated with him. Moreover, as the Respondent had not taken any permissions from the plaintiff and is attempting to make unlawful benefits out of the misuse of the plaintiff’s name/ caricature/ image/ style of delivering dialogues.If the forthcoming film is released, the plaintiff will suffer irreparable loss as it will cause substantial damage to the plaintiff’s goodwill, reputation and cause other hardships which cannot be compensated in pecuniary terms. Moreover, it will be a deception of the public and will therefore, not be in public interest. The balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff as the film will defame him and cause vast damage to the plaintiff’s good will and reputation which has built over the hardwork of many years.

Yesterday, the Madras High Court after considering the suit has ordered a stay on the release of ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth’ with its current title and content. Superstar Rajinikanth was represented in this matter by Mr. Arun C. Mohan, partner and counsel at Mohan Associates.

{Interesting trivia (with immense potential for a new set of jokes): This is the first time Superstar Rajinikanth has approached the courts of law and notably under his original name.}

 

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L. Gopika Murthy

Gopika is a fourth year student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore. She was formerly the Chief Editor of the Indian Journal of Law and Technology. Her first exposure to Intellectual property law and SpicyIP was through the University Moot Rounds at NLSIU, Bangalore in her first year. She has been regularly following the developments in the field of IPR since then and she hopes to contribute to the reporting of such developments. Her areas of interest in IP include copyrights, open access, fair dealing and trademarks.

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