In an interesting and far-reaching development in the field of Intellectual Property Rights, internationally acclaimed actor and cultural icon Rajinikanth approached the Madras High Court against Varsha Productions for using his name in its movie ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth’. Invoking Personality Rights and its protection against infringement, the celebrity actor sought an injunction against the producers of the movie for using his name, image, caricature and style of delivering dialogue without his permission.
Submitting an affidavit under his original name, Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, Rajinikanth contended that he enjoys a good reputation for his contribution to the film industry and that he had come across press releases, posters and information about the proposed movie that led him to believe that the producers had exploited his superhero image in numerous movies for the benefit of their proposed movie. He alleged that the film contained scenes with immoral content. He further added that the producers had not obtained his consent in using his name/caricature/image and style of dialogue delivery. All this amounts to a violation of his copyright and gross violation of his privacy.
A prima facie case existed in favor of the plaintiff as the reputation and goodwill of the actor is such that the name ‘Rajinikanth’ is only associated with him. Moreover, the producers of the said movie had not sought consent of the actor and sought to derive unlawful benefits from misusing his name, image, caricature and the style of delivering dialogue. Such misuse would have also deceived the public who associated the name with the actor, and thus was not in public interest.
Also, the balance of convenience was claimed in favour of the plaintiff as the film would have defamed him and caused considerable damage to his reputation and goodwill that he had built over many years of hard work.
Therefore, the High Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff and passed an interim injunction ordering a stay on the release of ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth’ with its current title and content.
Appealing against the order the defendants contended that the movie was not a biopic of the plaintiff and that the content of the movie had nothing to do with him. It also contended that the name used in the title of the movie —Ranjinikanth — was a common, non-copyrightable name and also happened to be the first name of the protagonist in the movie.
Rejecting the claims of the defendants the High Court opined that on seeing the name of Rajinikanth in the title of the movie, the audience would identify the name only with the actor.
Ruling in favour of the plaintiff, the Madras high court permanently stayed the defendants from using actor Rajinikanth’s name, image, caricature and style of delivering dialogues in their movie ‘Main Hoon Rajinikanth‘.
In its order, the High Court observed that if any person uses the name of a celebrity without his/her permission, the celebrity is entitled for injunction if the said celebrity could be easily identified by the use of his/her name by others.
The High Court opined that “the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case for granting interim injunction. Hence, the interim injunction granted by this Court is made absolute.”
The defendants later released the movie without using the actor’s image, caricature and style of dialogue delivery in the content of the movie and removed the actor’s name from the title of the movie.