Ching v. Salinas, Sr. (G.R. No. 161295)

Facts:

Petitioner Ching is a maker and manufacturer of a utility model, Leaf Spring Eye Bushing for Automobile, for which he holds certificates of copyright registration. Petitioner’s request to the NBI to apprehend and prosecute illegal manufacturers of his work led to the issuance of search warrants against respondent Salinas, alleged to be reproducing and distributing said models in violation of the IP Code. Respondent moved to quash the warrants on the ground that petitioner’s work is not artistic in nature and is a proper subject of a patent, not copyright. Petitioner insists that the IP Code protects a work from the moment of its creation regardless of its nature or purpose. The trial court quashed the warrants. Petitioner argues that the copyright certificates over the model are prima facie evidence of its validity. CA affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Issues:

(1) Whether or not petitioner’s model is an artistic work subject to copyright protection.

(2) Whether or not petitioner is entitled to copyright protection on the basis of the certificates of registration issued to it.

Ruling:

(1) NO. As gleaned from the specifications appended to the application for a copyright certificate filed by the petitioner, the said Leaf Spring Eye Bushing for Automobile and Vehicle Bearing Cushion are merely utility models. As gleaned from the description of the models and their objectives, these articles are useful articles which are defined as one having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information. Plainly, these are not literary or artistic works. They are not intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain, or works of applied art. They are certainly not ornamental designs or one having decorative quality or value. Indeed, while works of applied art, original intellectual, literary and artistic works are copyrightable, useful articles and works of industrial design are not. A useful article may be copyrightable only if and only to the extent that such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of the utilitarian aspects of the article. In this case, the bushing and cushion are not works of art. They are, as the petitioner himself admitted, utility models which may be the subject of a patent.

(2) NO.  No copyright granted by law can be said to arise in favor of the petitioner despite the issuance of the certificates of copyright registration and the deposit of the Leaf Spring Eye Bushing and Vehicle Bearing Cushion. Indeed, in Joaquin, Jr. v. Drilon and Pearl & Dean (Phil.), Incorporated v. Shoemart, Incorporated, the Court ruled that:

Copyright, in the strict sense of the term, is purely a statutory right. It is a new or independent right granted by the statute, and not simply a pre-existing right regulated by it. Being a statutory grant, the rights are only such as the statute confers, and may be obtained and enjoyed only with respect to the subjects and by the persons, and on terms and conditions specified in the statute. Accordingly, it can cover only the works falling within the statutory enumeration or description.

Ownership of copyrighted material is shown by proof of originality and copyrightability. To discharge his burden, the applicant may present the certificate of registration covering the work or, in its absence, other evidence. A copyright certificate provides prima facie evidence of originality which is one element of copyright validity. It constitutes prima facie evidence of both validity and ownership and the validity of the facts stated in the certificate.

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