“What is in a name?” Shakespeare asked. To that, we say everything. The list of celebrities who have not only tried to get their names registered as a trademark but their children’s names as well is far from being exhaustive. Be it Beyonce and Jay Z [1] registering their names along with their children’s names or Akshay Kumar getting the word ” KHILADI” [2] registered, IP has always been the center of Celebrity Rights. Before we dwell more deeply into the intricacies surrounding celebrity rights and IP protection for the same, let’s go through some basics first.

What is the first thing that comes to our mind when we think of a celebrity? A well-known individual, particularly one from the film industry or sports, but the meaning doesn’t restrict itself to just that and has a wider connotation. It covers well-known and repellent figures such as actors, politicians, athletes, magicians, singers, all types of artists, as well as defamed, dishonest, and terrorists, etc.

In the case of Titan Industries Ltd. v. Ramkumar Jewellers [3], a Single Judge Bench of the High Court of Delhi (Manmohan Singh, J.) observed that”… a celebrity is defined as a famous or well-known person. A “celebrity” is merely a person who “many” people talk about or know about. Therefore, in order to establish a case for infringement of celebrity rights, “validity” and “identifiability” must be proven.



The term “mark” covers things like names, abbreviations, signatures, noises, etc. Film names and titles are protected by trademark laws in India. Each of these characteristics identifies a source, which can be protected as a trademark and whose economic use is subject to regulation. Occasionally, either independently or in partnership with a brand, celebrities create their own “lines” or brands. That brand may use its own name, a name that celebrities give it, or a creative logo. For instance, Usain Bolt [4] trademarked his “pose,” and Sachin Tendulkar registered his name as a trademark in India.[5]

In the case of Sourav Ganguly v. Tata Tea Limited, Sourav Ganguly, the famous Indian cricketer, after scoring hundreds in Lords, was troubled to learn after returning that Tata Tea Ltd had included postcards in their tea packets for an opportunity to congratulate him via those postcards, obviously without the approval or consent of Sourav Ganguly. The tea gained popularity. The court ruled in Sourav Ganguly’s favour as his reputation and popularity were a part of his intellectual property.[6]



There is no definition or interpretive concept of “Celebrity” in the Indian Copyright Act. However, Section 2 (qq)(2) of the Indian Copyright Act provides a definition of a “Performer.” There are some rights attached to these performers who can be categorized as celebrities.

Both well-known artists from this era were required to attend a radio event in the matter of Sonu Nigam v. Amrik Singh (alias Mika Singh) & Anr. and were photographed for posters with their consent. However, Mika Singh advertised himself through unofficial posters. The posters featured larger pictures of him alongside other celebrities, such Sonu Nigam. Images of Sonu Nigam were scaled down. The Bombay High Court ordered the defendants to pay Rs. 10 Lakhs in damages for charity that had been agreed upon and restrained them from using those posters. It was contested and ultimately determined that Mika Singh’s popularity in comparison to other honorable and deserving artists was unfairly portrayed by hoardings and posters to the audience and general public.[7]



Personality is a way for one person to be recognized by another, and it has rights. An individual establishes an image of themselves and his expected behavior in society through the development of their personality. Each individual personality makes a unique contribution to society based on their unique talents. Contributing to society is a person’s right, and such personality rights are safeguarded. Since celebrity status is a prerequisite for having personality rights, they are also known as celebrity rights because they are the main aspect of any celebrity. Celebrities and well-known public personalities are typically covered by these rights so that their identities cannot be stolen or used. Image rights are a part of publicity rights, which are a subset of personality rights. It outlines the monetary value of any image or other representation of the individual whose reputation could be abused by someone.


Publicity rights are the privilege to capitalize on a celebrity’s fame. Celebrity fame is utilized to advertise the purchase of a good or activity. Therefore, it would be considered unfair trade practices, misuse of the celebrity’s intellectual property, an act of passing off, etc., if someone used the renown of a celebrity to promote their wares. In the case of Mr. Shivaji Rao Gaikwad v. M/S Varsha Productions on 3rd February 2015, the Madras High Court passed an injunction order against the release of a film titled “Main Hoon Rajinikanth”, stating that, it violated the famous actor Rajnikant’s reputation through wrongful use of his name in the title and the movie. Thus, the court held publicity rights by passing this order. [8]


According to the media, it is their fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution to gather and disseminate any and all information on famous people that may be of “public interest” or “public concern.” Celebrities have contested this on the grounds that it invades their privacy and interferes with their personal lives. Every person has the right to be in charge of how their life and image are presented to the outside world. Except with his or her approval, they should have sole control over how his or her identify is used commercially.

Since celebrities have a well-established reputation in society, people frequently approach them as friends and become curious about every aspect of their personal lives, from their intimate relationships to as trivial things as the clothes they wear, the cosmetics they use, and the locations they travel to.

Numerous celebrity MMS scandals have been a hot topic in the media and among the general public. Videotapes of adolescent superstar Sania Mirza changing her clothes in the bathroom and movie star Kareena Kapoor sharing some intimate moments with Shahid Kapoor—the latter of which was published on an online blog—were among the most recent and well-liked ones.

The common people in the community were very interested in these tape recording clips, but these celebrities found them to be quite unsettling, mentally traumatizing, and unstable about their actions even in their private, closed apartments. Even the Supreme Court noted that the Kareena-Shahid photo wasn’t tasteful when ruling on a Hindu appeal against the constitutional validity of Section 499 of the IPC. [9]

The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s father, Krishna Kishore Singh, recently filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court to safeguard his private rights and the reputation of his son. The case is titled Krishna Kishore Singh vs. Sarla a Saraogi. In a declaration to the court, Krishna Kishore Singh said that without his permission, no book, movie, or television series should be based on the life of his son. The court dismissed the suit, after reviewing similar relevant cases and precedents, that celebrity rights cannot be granted or recognised without relevance to the actual concept of The Right to Privacy.


Like everyone else, celebrities have rights to privacy, publicity, and personality that should be upheld to prevent them from losing their works, names, and likeness. Celebrity rights are a special class of rights that can be protected by a multifaceted strategy under the laws governing trademarks, copies, passing-off, and cybersquatting. Countries have undoubtedly started to defend these rights, not only through statutory laws but also with the assistance of judicial rulings in situations where the precise legislation does not apply. The subject of celebrity rights is becoming more and more clear.