Court rules against Sony in Shubh Vivaah case; Taal gets some lead time

Sony Entertainment Television suffered a setback today after the courts ruled against it in a copyright violations case.

According to the court ruling, Taal Communications, promoters of the weekly matchmaking show Swayamvar, which is slated for launch on national broadcaster Doordarshan, have been given a lead time before Sony can launch its own blockbuster marriage reality show Shubh Vivaah.

As per information available, the ruling states that if Taal launches Swayamvar on or before 30 June, Sony will have to wait at least two months before it can launch Shubh Vivaah. However, if Swayamvar is not launched within this period, Sony is free to launch its own show immediately.

Taal, promoted by Anil Gupta, a former consultant with Zee, and actor politician Vinod Khanna had originally planned to kick off Swayamvar on DD1 last November.

When Sony announced on 28 August its own plans to launch Shubh Vivaah with former queen bee of Bollywood Madhuri Dixit as the host, Taal went to court. At the heart of its case were issues of copyright, originality and ownership of intellectual property.

Taal claimed that the original concept belonged to it and that it had made several presentations to the channel over the past three years without any response after which they approached DD and got approval.

Sony Entertainment CEO Kunal Dasgupta, when contacted, expressed disappointment at the judgment contending that the idea of marriage could not be copyrighted. He however, made clear that the show would ultimately go on air, adding that having waited seven months, he could wait another four.

Manish Popat, COO, UTV television content & the show's producer, said: "I think it's a fair judgment. At least it brings clarity to the issue rather than leaving things hanging, as is the normal case in India as far as legal matters are concerned. "

Popat also expressed doubts over Taal's ability to launch Swayamvar in the time given by the court.

One reason for the "speedy" ruling could be that both sides had lined up legal luminaries to fight the case. Representing Sony was Ashok Desai while Kapil Sibal and Pravin Anand spoke on the part of Taal.

Taal, according to industry sources had asked for a private settlement, to get the issue resolved at the earliest, which Dasgupta was not willing to accede to. Sources indicate Sony was willing to pay Rs 10 million as a settlement but Taal wanted Rs 150 million. At the time of writing, could not ascertain whether any compensation had been demanded by Taal for delays in the launch of Swayamvar as damages. Also, it was unclear whether demands had additionally been made for damage to Taal's and co-promoter Vinod Khanna's reputation.

Keeping the dispute between Sony and Taal aside, the ruling could well prove to be a landmark as far as IPR is concerned.

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