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  • Writer's pictureAnkita Sabharwal

Domain Name Registrars must establish anti-abuse mechanism, rules Delhi High Court

In a recent trademark infringement suit involving the mark 'SNAPDEAL'[1] and its formative marks, the Delhi High Court has taken an affirmative stand on the accountability of Domain Name Registrars (DNRs).

The present matter pertains to a suit filed by Snapdeal Private Limited (hereinafter the “Plaintiff”) seeking permanent injunction against the infringement of its well-known trademark ‘SNAPDEAL’ along with reliefs for passing off, unfair trade practices, damages, rendition of accounts etc.

Defendant Nos. 1 to 32 were the DNRs engaged in the business of creation, registration, and sale of domain names to the Registrants (none of the Registrants had been impleaded in the present case). The Plaintiff alleged that the DNRs were offering their domain names registration services in India and were also providing related services to customers based outside of India, through their websites. However, none of the said Defendants have any offices or assets in India. It was the case of the Plaintiff that the DNRs had registered various domain names containing the Plaintiff's registered trademark 'SNAPDEAL'.

The Court, while reinforcing the accountability of DNRs in such cases, observed that "If the cancellation/suspension/transfer as sought is not agreed to through the said mechanism, then the IP owner can avail of its remedies in accordance with law". Thus, there ought to be a mechanism where the abuse policy is not merely dealing with suspension/locking but should also be able to cancel/transfer the infringing domain names. Such an abuse policy should also be implemented by the DNRs through a specified set of officials based in India to ensure that if, in a case, the transfer/cancellation is not permitted under the abuse policy, the trademark owner w would be able to avail of their remedies before the Courts in India, against such a decision of the DNR."

The Court directed the filing of an affidavit “as to whether an independent and impartial mechanism could be put in place by the Defendant 1 to 4 to prevent the abuse of trade marks through registration of domain names and to disable the privacy protect features and make available the details of the registering person in respect of domain names on the ‘Whois' database.”

This case is a further step in the Delhi High Court’s endeavors to regulate the position of domain providers in cases of virtual trademark infringement.


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