Maharashtra Nature Park, SGNP in copyright battle for photo event

Promoter of Fotothon, backed by Maharashtra Nature Park Society and state pollution control board, sends legal notice to organisers of Photothon — hosted by the national park and sponsored by a builder — for ‘copying’ their concept

Clouds of copyright infringement loom large upon two nature photography events in the city. While one of them is backed by state government bodies, the other event has been organised by Sanjay Gandhi National Park and sponsored by a private real estate company.

Paresh Pimpale with (right) Avinash Kubal, deputy director, MNPS
Paresh Pimpale with (right) Avinash Kubal, deputy director, MNPS

Fotothon is an annual event backed by Maharashtra Nature Park Society (MNPS) and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. The competition invites professionals and amateurs passionate about nature to choose a subject of their liking and click a picture of it within 24 hours.

This event is to be held on April 25. However, their thunder was stolen when Photothon, a contest organised by Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and sponsored by a private builder, was announced. This is slated for March 15.

Snap wars
Paresh Pimpale (38), a photography event manager, joined hands with the state government bodies in 2010. He claims he is the proprietor of the trademark “Fotothon”. Pimpale said the event is held every year on the weekend following Earth Day and attracts up to 500 participants. This year, the day falls on April 25.

Producing papers to stake his claim (mid-day has copies), he alleged that it was unfair that a similar event is under way and is to be held a month prior to his event. “It is a total rip-off of my concept, which is my registered intellectual property and trademark. Two days ago, a photographer friend from NCPA informed me about this.

I started getting calls from people seeking clarifications about the competition, which set my alarm bells ringing,” said the 32-year-old, who has sent the organisers of Photothon a legal notice. “It is obvious that people want to ride upon the reputation and goodwill I have earned over the past few years.

Left with no choice, I sent them a legal notice to refrain from doing so,” he stated. Avinash Kubal, deputy director, Maharashtra Nature Park Society (MNPS), said that he and Pimpale have worked together to create this concept to promote conservation of nature through the medium of photography.

“Ours is a state-level event which is attended by top government dignitaries, including the chief minister, who hands over the prizes to the winners of the photography contest,” Kubal said.

Vaibhav Kini, a lawyer who specialises in trademark laws, opined that considering the fact that not only has a registered name being infringed upon but also the nature of business associated with it is being copied, it is a violation of law. “Even if Pimpale had not registered Fotothon, he would still get an upper hand, as he is a prior user,” Kini said.

The other side
Minesh Raje, spokesperson of Rivali Park Project, the sponsors of Photothon, said, “SGNP is organising the event and we are just supporting a noble cause of spreading awareness about nature. Terms like marathon, cyclothon, are generic and can’t be copyrighted. We are in no way involved with these allegations of copyright violation.”

Sachin Repal, assistant conservator, SGNP, said that if someone felt their ideas or trademarks have been infringed upon, they can take the legal course to justify their claims and prove it in the court of law.

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