A recent decision by the High Court of Karnataka sheds light on the interaction of civil and criminal proceedings in intellectual property matters. M/s Mangalore New Sultan Beedi Works, a partnership firm engaged in the production of beedis, and the Karnataka State Police were involved in the case. The Petitioner prayed that the Court order a prompt and fair investigation into an alleged copyright infringement.
The Petitioner filed a complaint with the Narasimharaja Police Station in Mysore, alleging copyright infringement. However, the complaint appeared to have been put on hold due to the pending civil suit between the parties wherein a temporary injunction order against the accused was granted. It was the Petitioner’s argument that the police should launch an investigation as soon as possible because civil and criminal remedies co-exist in cases of copyright infringement.
The Petitioner contended that Section 63 of the Copyright Act of 1957 provides for both civil and criminal remedies, in cases of copyright infringement. The Petitioner emphasized that the police have to conduct an investigation expeditiously because any delay could jeopardize the enforcement of the Petitioner’s intellectual property rights.
The Respondent argued that, as established by previous judicial decisions, the police should generally refrain from interfering in civil disputes. However, they did acknowledge that if the court rules otherwise, the police should have no objection to continuing the investigation despite the ongoing civil suit.
After hearing the arguments of both parties and reviewing the petition papers, the Court was satisfied with the Petitioner’s arguments and granted relief. The Court emphasized the Copyright Act’s separate provisions for civil remedies (Sections 51 to 53A) and criminal prosecution (Sections 63 to 70).
The Court also pointed out that the filing of a civil suit and the initiation of a criminal proceeding based on the same set of facts do not always depend on the outcome of the other. Furthermore, the Court stated there has been no clear distinction between criminal and civil offenses in the past, and many acts could be considered crimes and torts. As a result, the Court rejected the Respondent’s argument that the police should not process a complaint because a civil suit was pending.
In its decision, the Court issued a Writ of Mandamus, ordering the police to conduct and complete the investigation withina period of three months. The Court also emphasized that any delay could have negative consequences for the officers involved.
The decision in WP No. 10870 of 2023 emphasizes the importance of dealing with intellectual property infringements promptly, through both civil and criminal proceedings. The Court clarified that the existence of a civil suit does not preclude criminal investigations for copyright infringement. This decision reaffirms the importance of enforcing intellectual property rights and emphasizes the importance of taking timely action to protect such rights.