Within the case of Karan Johar v. India Pleasure Advisory Pvt. Ltd.,[i] the Bombay Excessive Court docket delivered a big ruling, issuing a restraining order in opposition to the discharge of the movie “Shaadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” / “Shadi Ke Director Karan Johar”. The Court docket halted the movie’s launch and in addition prohibited using any promotional materials related to it.

The case was introduced earlier than the Court docket by the famend producer and director, Karan Johar, who argued that the movie’s title implied an affiliation with him, thereby exploiting his status and goodwill with out authorization. The case raises necessary issues in regards to the steadiness between defending persona rights and upholding inventive expression and in addition raises a number of different questions. It’s subsequently necessary to debate and analyse the precedent so as to perceive it’s future implications.


The movie “Shaadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” was scheduled for launch on 14th June 2024. The outline of the movie seen on the location BookMyShow[ii] reveals that the movie is about “Karan and Johar, two eccentric marriage ceremony planners, as they navigate the chaos and comedy of orchestrating essentially the most extravagant weddings.” Plainly the movie centres round two completely different individuals by the names of Karan, and Johar, and subsequently, it appears that evidently no direct reference is being made in direction of the plaintiff.

Nonetheless, the Plaintiff alleged that that the Defendants are utilizing the identify “Karan Johar” within the title and within the promotion, endorsement and publicity of the movie, with out permission, thereby violating his persona rights, publicity rights, and privateness rights, in search of to acquire unjust earnings / illegal acquire and trigger wrongful loss to the Plaintiff.


The Plaintiff argued that Karan Johar had gained superstar standing via the blockbuster movies which he had directed that performed an awesome position in reworking the Bollywood movie trade and launched the careers of a number of profitable actors. It was argued that “an entity who has obtained superstar standing has persona rights, proper of publicity and proper to privateness and until his consent is taken for utilizing his private attributes equivalent to his identify and career there’s violation of such rights.”

The Plaintiff contended that he was distressed by the unauthorized use of his identify within the movie titled “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” or “Shadi Ke Director Karan Johar“. The Plaintiff argued that the movie’s title and content material made direct references to him, which constituted a misuse of his identify and identification. The Plaintiff additional asserted that the Defendants had been utilizing his identify with malicious intent to mislead the general public into believing that he was related to the movie.

This was significantly evident within the movie’s trailers, which steered that the characters named “Karan” and “Johar” collaborated to change into Bollywood administrators and had been depicted making a Bollywood movie. The Plaintiff claimed that this state of affairs clearly exploited his persona. It was additionally contended that by consciously utilizing such model identify of the Plaintiff, the Defendants had been in search of to acquire unjust earnings / illegal acquire and trigger wrongful loss to the Plaintiff. Reliance was positioned upon varied selections of the Delhi Excessive Court docket the place persona rights have equally been protected.

The Defendants alternatively failed to seem within the proceedings, although they had been served with papers and intimated about mentioning of the matter. They’d not bothered to contest the declare of the Plaintiff.


The Court docket famous {that a} robust prima facie case was made out to guard persona rights of the Plaintiff, as he loved a star standing from the a number of blockbuster movies which he had directed.

The Court docket held that it was of the prima facie view that the movie “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar” / “Shadi Ke Director Karan Johar” made an unauthorized and illegal use of Plaintiff’s identify.

It was additionally famous by the Court docket that using the time period “Director” alongside “Karan Johar” clearly indicated that the Defendants had been exploiting the Plaintiff’s persona. The Defendants had been attempting to create confusion among the many common public, main them to imagine that the movie was related to the Plaintiff. Most of the people was more likely to determine and affiliate Karan Johar with the movie when it acquired conscious of the movie’s title.

The Court docket held that because the Plaintiff sought safety of his persona rights and privateness, the Defendants, by making unauthorized use of the Plaintiff’s identify and private attributes, together with his identify and career, had, in a prima facie view, violated the Plaintiff’s persona rights, proper to publicity, and proper to privateness.

Subsequently, an ad-interim injunction was granted and the Defendants had been restrained from utilizing Karan Johar’s identify or another attributes, and the movie was restrained from being launched, till the Defendants eliminated the identify of Karan Johar and his attributes, altogether, from the movie.


Because the views are prima facie, which means on first impression, and because the Defendants weren’t current for opposing the order, a possibility was missed for the Court docket right here to put the muse of a priceless precedent the place freedom of inventive expression was given significance. That is particularly required in right this moment’s observe, the place individuals are typically sending notices or submitting lawsuits for something and all the things, with the intention of grabbing a number of further bucks (not speaking about this case significantly).

It’s doubtless there will likely be a revision within the choice of Court docket. This appears evident from the clarification that “Defendants are at liberty to hunt variations, modifications and / or trip of the ad-interim aid”.

Nonetheless, in gentle of this order, there are a number of attention-grabbing factors and questions raised that I really feel are obligatory to debate.

Privateness Rights

It’s attention-grabbing to notice, the Court docket held that proper to privateness of the Plaintiff was violated. In what method, and the way? This was not answered. In reality, very much less reasoning has been given for coming to this choice, understandably because of the urgency of the order.

The Supreme Court docket in R. Rajagopal v. State Of T.N.,[iii] had acknowledged the suitable to privateness whereby it was noticed that: “A citizen has a proper to safeguard the privateness of his personal, his household, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and training amongst different issues. None can publish something in regards to the above issues with out his consent whether or not truthful or in any other case and whether or not laudatory or vital. If he does so, he can be violating the suitable to privateness of the particular person involved and can be liable in an motion for damages.

Nonetheless, it was additionally noticed that “any publication in regards to the aforesaid [privacy] features turns into unobjectionable if such publication is predicated upon public information”.[iv]

For my part, a person’s identify can’t be thought-about as private knowledge, particularly when it’s publicly obtainable on social media platforms, thereby turning into part of public information.

In any other case, each article or work that makes use of or references the identify of Karan Johar must be taken down, as a result of violation of his “proper to privateness. This actually can’t be the intention of the Court docket right here. Subsequently, the order that proper to privateness was violated merely by means of Plaintiff’s identify, appears a bit excessive.

Publicity Rights

The one violation obvious right here might be that of persona rights or publicity rights, given the superstar standing of the Plaintiff.

Nonetheless, even in that case, a sound defence to violation of publicity rights is offered for the Defendants, taking help of a pertinent commentary made in Digital Collectibles v. Galactus Funware Expertise.[v] It was noticed by the Court docket there that the “… use of superstar names, photographs for the needs of lampooning, satire, parodies, artwork, scholarship, music, teachers, information and different comparable makes use of can be permissible as sides of the suitable of freedom of speech and expression beneath Article 19(1)(a) of the Structure of India and wouldn’t fall foul to the tort of infringement of the suitable of publicity.”[vi]

Subsequently, it may be argued that using the identify of a star merely within the title for inventive functions must be permissible as a side of the suitable of freedom of speech and expression beneath Article 19(1)(a) of the Structure of India. The Court docket appears to have rushed to its conclusion with out contemplating this important and elementary side.

Rogers v. Grimaldi

One other pertinent case right here that might have been referred to, was that of Rogers v. Grimaldi[vii] determined in the US. The info had been that Ginger Rogers, a famend entertainer well-known for her performances with Fred Astaire, sued Alberto Grimaldi and others over the movie “Ginger and Fred”.

The Movie “Ginger and Fred”, portrayed two retired dancers who earned the nickname “Ginger and Fred” from imitating Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The movie’s plot centred on their reunion for an Italian tv particular.

Rogers argued that the movie’s title misled the general public into believing she was related to or endorsing the movie, thereby violating (1) her proper to publicity; (2) her proper to privateness; and (3) the Lanham Act.

Notice: Lanham Act gives for a system of trademark registration in the US and protects the proprietor of a mark in opposition to using comparable marks, if such use is more likely to end in shopper confusion, or if the dilution of a well-known mark is more likely to happen.[viii]

The problem subsequently was if using a star’s identify within the title of a creative work violated her the suitable to privateness, persona or publicity rights, or if it violated the Lanham Act?

The Court docket discovered that Rogers’ claims failed as a matter of regulation as a result of the movie “Ginger and Fred” was protected as a creative expression beneath the First Modification. The court docket decided that the movie will not be a business product or commercial, and thus doesn’t fall beneath commerce or promoting legal guidelines. It’s a satire about trendy tv that includes a reunion of two performers who as soon as imitated Rogers and Astaire, which is central to the movie’s inventive content material. Subsequently, each the movie and its title had been entitled to full First Modification safety.

It was very rightly noticed by the Court docket right here: “Equally protected is the title of the Movie, an integral a part of the work’s inventive expression, which is a reference to its central characters.

This case, and its observations, are strikingly just like the case at hand, as a result of just like the names “Ginger” and “Fred”, the identify “Karan” and “Johar” had been getting used to explain two separate characters who’re central to the movie’s inventive content material. The title being an integral a part of the work’s inventive expression, the utilization ought to have been permissible and guarded by freedom of expression, thereby being an exception to the violation of privateness rights, persona rights, or any logos.

Ultimate Ideas

Maintaining in thoughts varied Indian precedents and exceptions carved out, and in addition maintaining in thoughts the case of Rogers v. Grimaldi, it appears that evidently, a special choice might have been given right here by this Court docket, contemplating that the official title of the movie: “Shadi Ke Director Karan Aur Johar”, used the identify “Karan Johar” for 2 completely different individuals, which had been artistically related to the story of the movie. The info right here appear to strongly incline in direction of being protected as inventive expression, being an exception to violation of privateness, persona or publicity rights.

Nonetheless, in my view, it’s true that using the phrase “Director”, as identified by the Court docket, may give a deceptive message to the customers, that the movie was sponsored or associated to Karan Johar, as he’s thought-about well-known for his position as a director in lots of well-known Bollywood movies. Taking down this phrase can be a viable choice to forestall all direct references. However in any case, even this side must be lined beneath freedom of speech and expression.

The take a look at of Rogers will not be relevant in India, however it’s positively one thing to bear in mind. Just like that case, persona rights or publicity rights mustn’t have taken priority over real inventive expression.

In any case, although a possibility was current for each the events to additional broaden the jurisprudence over this eternal battle between inventive expression and privateness/persona rights, the failure by the Defendants to seem in Court docket enormously restricted any doable conclusion. It might probably solely be hoped that the ultimate judgement may consider all these factors, and the Court docket will give its reasoned choice.

Finish notes:

[i] Karan Johar v. India Pleasure Advisory Pvt. Ltd., Interim Software (L) No.17865 Of 2024 in Com IPR Go well with (L) No.17863 Of 2024.

[ii] pictures/shaadi-ke-director-karan-aur-johar/ET00401267.

[iii] R. Rajagopal vs State Of T.N., 1995 AIR 264, 1994 SCC (6) 632.

[iv] Para 26, Ibid.

[v] Digital Collectibles v. Galactus Funware Expertise, CS(COMM) 108/2023

[vi] Para 57, Ibid.

[vii] Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2nd 994 (1989)


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