Graphical User Interfaces and Design Protection

A rapid growth in the demand for virtual platforms to operate various meetings is evident today. One such platform during the ongoing pandemic is “JioMeet” and another is “GoogleMeet”. However, JioMeet has witnessed legal controversies from the day it was launched, not only for the privacy issues but also for being potentially infringing. It was reported that the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the “JioMeet” is substantially similar to its competitor “Zoom”.

In India, GUI is a protectable subject matter under the Designs Act, 2000 and theoretically under the Copyright Act, 1957. Accordingly, it could be argued that the GUI used by JioMeet could possibly violate Zoom’s GUI.

Nevertheless, the question that needs to be answered is whether a “GUI” is capable of design protection under the Designs Act, 2000?

Moving ahead, the Indian perspective on GUI protection appears unclear. For example, Amazon’s application for a GUI was refused by the CGPDTM and was held that since “a GUI is not an ‘árticle of manufacture’ and is not physically accessible, it cannot be called an ‘article’ under section 2(a) of the Designs Act”. On the contrary, GUIs have been given protection in India under Class 14-04 which deals with “screen displays and icons” such as a ‘Monitor with GUI’ registered in 2015, a ‘Mobile Phone’ registered in 2016, and a ‘Display Screen with Graphical User Interface’ registered in 2014. 


  1. Whether there is a need to re-interpret the Designs Act, 2000 and to derive the legislative intent with respect to the definition of an “article” under the Act?

Examples of some registered GUI in India:

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About Sushmita Ray 18 Articles
Sushmita Ray is a Legal Counsel and works in the Fintech Industry. She is a graduate from KIIT School of Law, KIIT (Deemed to be) University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha and have successfully completed a 5-year Dual Degree Integrated Course, B.Sc.LL.B (Intellectual Property Laws Hons.). She has interned with various reputed IP firms in their Patents and TM Prosecution departments. She is also a participant and winner of various National, Regional and Cluster level competitions.


  1. Going through an integration of law and technology for the first time was quite a good experience for me, probably the best article I’ve read today to be honest. For me personally, the documentation was full of new information and well framed.

  2. As per interpretation of Sections 2(a), 2(d), 5(3) read with section 6 of the Designs Act and the classification of articles for registration as provided in Rule 10 of the Designs Rules, 2001. More specifically, Class 14 (Class 14-04) of the Third Schedule deals with “screen displays and icons”. Thus, the GUI of software for design protection should fall within this classification if it is original and there is no prior publication of the same.

    I believe that it is the need of the hour in today’s digital world to step ahead and re-think on strict interpretation of “article” under Designs Act, 2000, if not done so in near future, then we are welcoming the greater risk of infringement under the existing Indian legislative framework. However, in a 2018 report by the International Chamber of Commerce on ‘Design Protection for Graphical User Interfaces’ (ICC Report) it has been observed that in India “design protection may conceivably be granted under the Designs Act but clear guidelines are still awaited” on the issue.

    To discuss this further please leave a comment below.

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