Cybersquatting in Trademarks: Indian Perspective
Written By: Sreshta Satpathy
Let us understand Cybersquatting first
The Indian courts have defined cybersquatting as “an act of acquiring fraudulent registration with a purpose to sell the domain name to the lawful owner of the name at a premium” based on the definition provided in the case of Manish Vij v. Indra Chugh by the Delhi High Court. In other words, it is when an individual or entity registers a domain name that is identical or similar to a trademark of another party and then seeks to sell the domain name for a profit.
Using a brand name to boost search results for a different product, for example, is a classic infringement; however, pretending to be or represent a brand is cyber-squatting. In India, cybersquatting has risen dramatically in recent decades, posing a serious threat to intellectual property owners’ rights. Simply by utilizing the brand’s domain name, cyber-squatters can do significant damage to the brand and trademark owner. It is difficult to prevent cyber-squatting in India due to a lack of appropriate cyber legislation.
Cybersquatting in India
In India, there have been numerous incidents of cyber-squatting in recent years. Domain name disputes and cyber-squatting have always been handled by the courts. India, unlike many other developed countries, does not have any domain name protection legislation, therefore the Trade Mark Act of 1999 is used to decide cases. In India, the Bombay High Court in the case of Rediff Communication vs. Cyber Booth was one of the first to rule against cyber-squatting. In this case, the court held that the value and relevance of a domain name are comparable to that of a corporate asset.
The defendant had registered the domain name radiff.com, which was identical to rediff.com, in this instance. The court believed that internet domain names are equally important as a significant organizational asset, a domain name is more than just an Internet address; it’s a brand subject to the same level of protection as a trademark. The court gave the decision in the favor of the plaintiff.
A domain name dispute involving the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) name for India (.in) is governed by the in India. The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) oversees the IN Dispute Resolution Policy (INDRP).
Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP); for dealing with cybersquatting, a domain name regulatory authority has created a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The UDRP is incorporated into the domain registration agreement and establishes the terms and circumstances in the event of a dispute over the registration and use of an Internet domain name between the registrant and any party other than the registrar.
IN Dispute Resolution Policy (INDRP); The National Internet Exchange of India, or NIXI, is in charge of the. in top-level domain. As a result, the.IN Dispute Resolution Policy and the INDRP Rules of Procedure manage domain name and cybersquatting complaints involving. in domains. As per INDRP, any person who considers that a registered domain name conflicts with his legitimate rights or interests have the right to file a complaint to the.IN Registry on the following premises:
- The Registrant’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a name, trademark, or service mark in which the complainant has rights already;
- Registrant has no rights or legitimate interests whatsoever in respect of the domain name; and
- Registrant’s domain name has been registered or is being used in bad faith.
The practice of a person or an entrepreneur reserving a domain name is not unethical in and of itself, but misapplying this process to acquire a domain name in a similar trademark of others is unethical. Domain names/Trademarks are more than just internet addresses; they are company assets that are incredibly essential and valuable, and as such, they are entitled to the same level of protection as trademarks. In India, you can use the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to resolve disputes about domain names in the generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) such as.com,.org,.net, and so on.
In the event of a dispute over the registration of a “.in” domain name, a person may file a complaint with the INDRP. Indian corporations can also file a lawsuit in a civil court of competent jurisdiction to resolve their domain name disputes. Under the Common Law of Passing-Off, a civil court may issue an order granting a permanent injunction against the wrongful domain name user. Usually, such rulings favour trademark owners, deterring cyber squatters from accumulating domain names for their own gain.