Aananda Expanded v. Unknown

Aananda Expanded v. Unknown

2002 (24) PTC 427 (Reg.)

Brief Facts:

Four applications for the registration of copyright were submitted to the copyright office under Section 45(1) of the Copyright Act, 1957 under the category of artistic works by M/s ABP Ltd. The works submitted for registration were a series of fonts comprising alphabets in Bengali language and some other symbols. The copyright office rejected the application on the grounds that it did not qualify as an artistic work as per the definition under Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Aggrieved by the decision of the copyright office, Applicant filed a writ petition in the High Court at Calcutta. The Hon’ble High Court ordered the copyright office gave the applicants an opportunity to be heard on 09.10.2001 at 11.00 a.m. The present order has been passed by the Registrar of Copyrights.


Whether fonts/typefaces can be considered as artistic works under Section 2(c) of the Copyright Act, 1957?


Applicant’s Contentions:

• Applicant developed new Bengali fonts/typefaces through the employment of Debrani Gupta who, the course of her engagement developed the following:
1) Aananda Expanded Italic
2) Aananda Expanded Bold
3) Aananda Expanded with x/xx Expanded
4) Aananda Expanded Bold Italics

• Significant amount of labour and skill has been applied in developing these fonts.

• The originality of these fonts is claimed in their unique and angular calligraphic strokes, diagonal strokes, and angular joineries with strong calligraphic stress, which could be produced through digital process to meet the demand of modern printing technology.

• Fonts/typefaces exhibit sufficient originality, artistic nature and sufficient labour and skill has been utilized to create these fonts and hence they may be treated as artistic works.

• Ordinary alphabet depicted in special form on a font can be the subject matter of copyright.

• Design of certain alphabets show artistic skill and should hence be copyright protected as in the case of Roland Corporation & Anr. v. Lovenzo & Sons; 105 ALR 623 (Aus)

• Applicant’s work is covered under ‘any other work of artistic craftsmanship’ under Section 2 (c) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Registrar’s Observations:

• It was held that fonts and typefaces are not classified as works in which copyright subsists.

• The meaning of ‘any other work of artistic craftsmanship’ gets restricted by the specific definitions given in 2 (c) (i) and 2 c (ii); as the word artistic work is preceded by the word ‘other’ it certainly indicates that it is intended to refer to something other than the ones mentioned in 2 (c) (i) and 2 (c) (ii) but of the same generis. A typeface design does not get integrated into the concept of artistic work due to restrictions of ‘ejusdem generis’.

• The English Copyright Law specifically includes ‘typographical arrangement’, over and above ‘a work of artistic craftsmanship’. Therefore, it is clear that typefaces are different from other work of artistic craftsmanship and have been specifically recognized in the English Copyright Statute. However the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 provides no express recognition as such.

• Fonts/Typefaces are clearly works of applied art. Hence if they are protected the term of protection will also have to be provided in the act and since India has not given a term of protection for fonts/typefaces while giving it for other forms of applied art like photographic work, it is confirmed that it is not a legislative intention in India to protect typefaces as artistic work.

• Even if the typefaces are considered as artistic work then, they are capable of being registered as a design under the Designs Act. Since, M/s.ABP Ltd. has been using the said typefaces since 1998 which amounts to more than 50 reproductions of the typeface, it loses its possible copyright protection as per Section 15(2) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957.

• Hence the request of the Applicant to register the typefaces as artistic work cannot be acceded to, as the typeface design does not constitute a work, which is entitled copyright protection under the Copyright Act, 1957.

The board rejected the following the Copyright applications of the Applicant:


The order is justified. If the application would have been accepted, then any work that is original will claim to be under ‘any other works of artistic craftsmanship. In India, typefaces or fonts can gain copyright protection only if there is a new legislation particularly permitting the copyright office to do so. However unique and original the typeface may have been, the absence of legislation in its regard justifies the rejection of the application.

Author: Meghana Sapuram, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad

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