Interview with Kris & Kolloth Managing Partner Binu Radhakrishnan

null“The protection of IP in India is still at an infancy stage and most of the individuals who are placed in the creative aspects of the Industry are not well versed with the finer points of the IP issues”

As co productions and Intellectual Property become the order of the day in Indian Animation, studios are increasing their knowledge base in terms of Awareness about IP rights, Licensing as well as rights and obligations in Co Productions etc.

In the first of a series that looks at various ancillary services and domains that Animation Studios and Businesses deal with, Managing Editor Anand Gurnani conducted an Interview with Kris & Kolloth Managing Partner Binu Radhakrishnan who gave a practicing lawyer’s perspective on this field

Please first tell us a bit about Kris and Kolloth and about your role there?

Kris & Kolloth is a young generation law firm about 8 years old and was founded by Anil Kolloth in 1999 [ previously Kolloth Associates].

We specialize in Intellectual Property Laws and Media and Entertainment Laws and the firm is accredited by the prestigious Legal500 as one of the recommended firms in Bangalore, India.

Anil Kolloth is the Founder Partner of Kris & Kolloth and I am the Managing Partner of the Firm and I also head the Media and Entertainment Practice.

What is the state of IPR protection in the country?
IPR Laws in India have gone though several amendments and the awareness level of Individuals and MNCs alike have gone up in the last few years. It has also created hype as far as the practice of Intellectual Property is concerned in the Country with a large number of individuals and Lawyers getting into the bandwagon of creating IP.

On the Legal and Judicial side of implementing and prosecution on IP Violations we are still years behind several other jurisdictions in the world, mainly due to lack of proper infrastructure and also the lack of knowledge in the recent developments in the area of IP.

The Courts in India are now quite fast in issues relating to IP prosecutions and we can still see progress on the same in the coming years with the amendments to the laws in India and also due to deletion of some of the procedures (that delayed the process) that were present in the earlier laws.

Having said that we still need to educate the inventors and amend systems on protection of IP and harvesting good IP and maintaining the same (necessarily by managing and also by renewing IP’s on a time bound basis)

Have you worked with any Indian Animation studios?
Toonz Animation India Pvt. Ltd. (Amongst Asia’s Largest Animation Studios) is
one major client we represent and have worked with them on Dragonlance series which was in the news last month for being a prestigious project that Toonz is making in collaboration with Paramount Pictures.

We also deal with some of the complicated issues related to IP and also advice on
contracts pertaining to Writers, Director’s, Production services, Option agreements, Inter-party Agreements and other Animation project related agreements.

We also advice some of the leading Animation Companies in Bangalore. (Some we cannot disclose due to confidentiality requirements on some of the projects that are dealing and negotiating upon. We advice companies who are large and associated with some of the leading Production Studios in the US and UK, I am sure that we will be able to disclose the same as and when the contracts are concluded.)

From your study of the animation field, what steps do you recommend to safeguard one�s IP?
From the study on work done in the Animation Industry, the protection of IP in India is still at an infancy stage and most of the individuals who are placed in the creative aspects of the Industry are not well versed with the finer points of the IP issues that need to be set right at the first instance. Unless we identify which form of protection of IP is essential for the Animation Industry, some of the steps taken by companies are vulnerable to loss of good IP as the protection of the same is not taken care in a professional manner.

I would strongly recommend an awareness program to be held in-house for such companies, which would give a correct picture of the do�s and don�ts in the area of creative application and protection of IP. I have found the aspect of animated work being derived from other popular characters prevalent in the Animation Industry that is in fact leading to infringements. An IP Due Diligence is a must for Companies who have not really adhered to any IP Management and not in the process of regularly reviewing their IP�s and Contracts.

The best practice to protect ones IP in the Animation Industry is to create IP from fresh ideas and characters generated by the creative team and protection of the same Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts and management of IP in terms of Licensing, assignment of rights in creative property etc help the Companies to protect their interest.

IP in Animation is an area if protected in a professional manner would lead to a lot of revenue in the form of Licenses and also rights in projects that will be revenue source for the Animation companies.

Any advice you could offer for studios getting into co productions and what they should be legally aware of?
We have handled quite a good number of Co Production projects; the areas of concern for partners in the projects are clearly spelling out the rights and obligations of each partner and also if there are certain rights that need to be obtained from any third parties, the requisite permissions, approvals or assignments to be obtained in advance before commencement of the project.

In a variety of projects sometimes there are issues related to rights not being obtained from the parties (Owners) and hence there is a delay or sometimes disruption in the production process.

Ideally charting out a good contract that will list out the terms and conditions of going ahead with the Co Production and also listing out the obligations of the partners clearly will help in a smooth Co Production process.

In today�s world with the cost of production shooting up in projects, Co Productions are the best way of doing projects provided the above mentioned due diligence is followed at the initial stages of the project.

What parts of an Animation development Bible can be copyrighted / registered?
Almost all aspects of the Animation development bible can be protected by means of various IP registrations. The guidelines of characters, settings, premises and overall tone which define an animation series can be protected by means of copyrights if written in a well defined manner.
The names of characters can be trademarked and also the tag – lines can be protected.

How does a writer or a character designer safegaurd his intellectual effort? What�s the procedure for registering scripts / artwork?
The Script in its narrative form (dialogue) can be used to capture various aspects in which the Toon characters converse in the picture; the Script can be protected as a Copyright in India.

Artwork is complex when it comes to the Animation Industry; some of the important characters that we find in the Animation space are great artworks of creators that have changed the prospects of some of the production companies. They can be protected as “Artistic work” by means of Copyright in India.

The procedure is to make an application to the Registrar of Copyrights in Delhi in the relevant form with the Script / Artistic work and the Copyright registration for the same can be obtained in a few months time from the Copyrights Registry in Delhi.

In terms of two artistic or creative professionals from two different countries collaborating / partnering on an individual basis to create IP, how do the laws apply?
The Creative professionals working on a project can be of different nationalities. Once the work is completed, the professionals have to decide on which Copyright law they would be following for registering the Copyright [US, UK or Indian Law] accordingly they can choose the country for registration.

The practice of Companies in India employing the professionals is to obtain an assignment for the work once it is completed. The assignment needs the parties to expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a “work for hire” .Once such assignment is obtained the Company is considered the legal author and owner of the IP and due credit will be given to the professionals for their work.

The usual practice for Animation Companies is to follow the Copyright laws of the Country in which they are registered and also register their works in countries where the intend to do business.

Any new laws / regulations in the offing that might better enable the IP
protection mechanism in the country?
The laws in the Country as far as IP is concerned are in different stages of Amendments. The Trademarks Act was amended to include some of the latest practices and also procedures were cut short, Service marks were introduced to the Act and we also expect some more areas to be amended in the Act. The Patents Act which was amended quite a few times in the last 5 years to include some of the international practices and procedures and also to comply with the TRIPS Agreement. The Copyright Act has also been amended.

The Amendments to me are in the right direction and I am positive to see some good laws being enacted in the future.

Best practices have to be followed by the Lawyers and the Companies to safeguard the interests of the IP Owners and not only look at the legal system and procrastinate on the happenings in the real world. The Positive approach adopted by some of the Lawyers and Companies will see better implementation and progress of the projects.

Additional Comments
The new era of Animation and Media has seen a large number of companies establish Major Co Production / Joint Venture Companies. UTV, Adlabs, Toonz Animation, etc are some of the stars in this show and in the coming years we see some of the major international ventures being produced in India with good talent and management skills. I am positive of the fact the “Show must go on and will go on in a good way in India”.