Management | ‘Slander of title’ is a civil as well as criminal offence

Management | ‘Slander of title’ is a civil as well as criminal offence

In the age of globalization, patents and intellectual property assume great significance. To help readers get an idea of patents, Mint presents an occasional column on the subject.

A co-author is as much an author as the principal author for purposes of copyright. A co-author is one who contributes substantially in producing the work; the editor of the writing or somebody who takes down dictation or those who type out the work and read proofs cannot be styled as co-authors, even in cases where their suggestions and advice are incorporated in the final product. Substantial contribution here means and includes additions and deletions arising out of discussions between the authors on the subject matter of the work.

(There is, however, a recent instance in which the consultant and adviser Humayun Kabir, who wrote to the dictation of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was treated by the Supreme Court as a co-author of the latter’s autobiography.)

If the author himself names the co-author, both of them shall make the application for registering the work. If a co-author’s name is omitted and the registrar receives a complaint to that effect, he can hold an enquiry and if he finds the claim of the co-author is sustainable, he will register the copyright in both names. Any person aggrieved by the order can approach the court; right to authorship is a civil right.

The disadvantage in registering a copyright in more than one name is that all applicants should act together in the matter of licensing and assignment of copyright, and in claiming or receiving royalties. Therefore, it is advisable that they settle the matter among themselves and get the copyright assigned in favour of only one and get the work registered in the name of the principal author.

Where persons succeed to the copyright as heirs of the original authors, they are called joint copyright holders.

The author of a book was asked by his publisher if somebody else’s name could be added as co-author in subsequent editions. Can such additions be made?

No. The authorship is created only once and the copyright rests as soon as the work is completed. The author cannot confer any co-authorship on anybody just for the asking. The publisher’s request should not be agreed to.

If despite the author’s refusal, the publisher adds the third party’s name as co-author, it will amount to an offence called “slander of title", in which case the publisher may be ordered to delete the third party’s name.

Slander of title is a civil as well as criminal offence. So the publisher will be liable to be prosecuted.

Is there anything like registering a brand name?

Brand names are not registered, nor are names of proprietors. There is no procedure available in law to register brand names or personal names. What can be registered is a trademark under the Trademarks Act. The trademark shall not be similar to any other mark already in use or already registered. If these conditions are not met, the registrar will not register the proposed mark.

N.K. Acharya is an intellectual property rights attorney specializing in patents, trademarks, copyrights and design.Queries are welcome at