Burlington Home Shopping Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajnish Chibber & Anr.

Burlington Home Shopping Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajnish Chibber & Anr.

 Before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi at New Delhi

1995 PTC (15) 278

Decided on: 20.10.1995

Plaintiff was a mail order service Company. The business of the Plaintiff was to publish mail order catalogues dealing with consumer items which were posted to the select list of Plaintiff’s clients. A major investment in this regard was compilation of client list/customer database. Plaintiff had developed a list of clientele/customers database over a period of three years which was always in the gradual process of compilation. The Defendant was an employee in the Plaintiff Company. After leaving the employment of the Plaintiff, Defendant started his own business similar to as that of the Plaintiff. He had also managed to get a copy of database of the Plaintiff and started to use the same for his own purpose.

Plaintiff’s Case

The database is an original literary work within the meaning of Section 2(o) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Copyright in the same vests with the Plaintiff and therefore any unauthorized use or substantial reproduction of the same is an act of infringement of Copyright of the Plaintiff under the Copyright Act, 1957.

Defendant’s Case

The database which the Plaintiff is referring to has been developed by the Defendant and therefore there is no infringement of Copyright.

The Questions, that came up for consideration before the Court was:

  1. Whether a database consisting of compilation of mailing address of customers can be subject matter of a copyright; and
  2. Whether the defendant can be said to have committed infringement of the Plaintiff’s Copyright.

Both the questions were answered by the Hon’ble Court in affirmative. The Court held that compilation of addresses developed by anyone by devoting time, money, labour and skill amounts to a literary work wherein the author has a Copyright. On comparison of the floppies seized from the Defendant it was found that substantial number of entries were comparable word by word, line by line, space by space. The database available with the Defendant was found to be substantially a copy of the database available with the Plaintiff. The Defendant was restricted to utilize the list of clients/customers included in the database exclusively owned by the Plaintiff.

In coming to the answer to the first question, the Hon’ble Court relied on Section 2(o) which defines ‘literary work’, Section 2(y) which defines ‘work’ , Section 14 (Exclusive Rights), Section 17(c) (First ownership in a contract for service) of the Copyright Act, 1957 and also on the following authorities on the subject of Copyright which reiterated the legal proposition that the Compilations, like brochures, trade catalogs, client lists are capable of protection as literary works. Other than this, client list is also protected under the law relating to confidential information and trade secret.


  • Laddie, Prescott and Vitoria, The Modern Law of Copyright, (1980 Edition)
  • Copinger & SkoneJames on Copyright (1991 Edition)
  • David Bainbridge, Software Copyright Law
  • McComas, Davison and Gonski, The Protection of Trade Secrets-A in General Guide (1981 Edition)
  • Paul Goldstein, Copyright-Principles Law and Practice (Volume II)

Case Laws

  • Waterlow Directors Ltd. v. Reed Information Service Ltd.; 1992 FSR 409
  • William Hill (Football) Ltd. v. Ladbroke (Football) Ltd.; 1980 RPC 539
  • Govindan v. Gopalakrishna; AIR 1955 Madras 391
  • Sham Lal Paharia v. Gaya Prasad; AIR 1971 Allahabad 182

Author: Ankit Rastogi

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