India: The Realm of Domain Names: An Indian Perspective

Last Updated: 3 August 2005
Article by Rajkumar Dubey

In the realm of cyberspace, when you browse a particular website on the Internet, it is actually the Internet Protocol address (IP address) that establishes the link between your computer and the particular website you are searching for. IP address is like a name of a person or moreover like a telephone number. It helps in identifying a particular computer connected to the Internet where the website is hosted on the Internet.

Invention of Domain Names

An IP address is a numeric form of address consisting of strings and numbers that identifies a particular computer where the website is hosted. It consists of four parts separated by periods (dot), for example 216.198.199.235 where 216 refers to network, 198 and 199 refers to sub networks and 235 is the computers itself. As a string of meaningless numbers is not easy to remember, thus domain names were invented. IP addresses are computer-friendly, while domain names are human-friendly. Domain names offer a more intuitive way to remember a website.

Domain name can consist of two or more words separated by periods. It can be up to 63 characters in length, it must begin with a letter and may consist digits or hyphens. For example, in the URL http://www.dubeypartners.com the domain name is dubeypartners.com.

Levels of Domain Name System:

Domain Names are broadly divided into two categories i.e.

1. Top level domain (TLD) name and

2. Second level domain (SLD) name.

1.Top-Level domain (TLD):

TLD is the highest level in the hierarchy of the Domain Name System (DNS). It is the last part of a host name. For instance in the case of http://www.dubeypartners.com ".com" is the TLD.

TLD is divided into two categories namely Generic TLD (gTLD) and the Country Code TLD (ccTLD).

a) gTLD’s are used by a particulars class of organisation. It describes the type of the organization that they represent.

gTLD

-

Description

.com

-

Commercial Organisation

.edu

-

Educational Establishment

.gov

-

Government

.net

-

Network Infrastructure

.org

-

Organisations

The most common gTLDs are

b) ccTLD’s are used by all the countries and their dependent countries. ccTLD’s are of two or three letters code. For example "in" stand for India, "uk" stands for United Kingdom, and "aus" stands for Australia.

2. Second Level domain (SLD):

It is a name, which is registered by or on behalf of registrants, using the services of the Registrar. The purpose of SLD is to differentiate particular body from other similar or same entities or competitor. SLD names exist before TLD’s in Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

Registration of Domain Names in India:

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI), a non-profit company promoted by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) in association with Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), has been entrusted with the responsibilities of setting up the Registry for ".IN" ccTLD . However, .IN Registry does not carry out registrations itself. Instead, it assign the responsibilities of registration to the accredited registrars, which then accept registration requests from end users. For instance, all new registrations are to be made through the accredited registrars such as :

  • Education and Research Network (ERNET) will be the exclusive registrar for the "ac.in", "edu.in", and "res.in" domains.
  • National Informatics Centre (NIC) will be the exclusive registrar for the "gov.in" domain.
  • Any of the accredited registrars of .IN Registry can provide registration for the .com, .in, co.in, net.in, org.in, firm.in, gen.in, and ind.in domains.

Domain Name Disputes:

Domain Name Disputes occur when someone register the Domain name that is identical to trademark / service mark or confusingly similar to a trademark/ service mark or pre-existing domain name, having no legitimate interests over it, adopting it with a malafide intention to make profits out of others goodwill in the market. In a nutshell domain disputes arises over conflicting positions as to who has the right over a specific domain name.

Types of Domain Name Disputes:

  1. Cybersquatting
  2. Cybersquatting is an act of registering famous brand names as domain names with an intention to sell them to the appropriate owner for profit. Majority of litigated domain disputes are with respect to the act of Cybersquatting. To cope up with the deceitful act of Cybersquatting, Indian courts have extended the existing law in order to prevent the cybersquatter from maintaining control over the domain name.

    However in cases where the cybersquatter registers the domain name but never actually use the domain name for commercial purposes. In that case, Courts have applied the doctrine of passing- off in granting remedies in favour of such trademark owners.

  3. Profit Grabbing
  4. In this type of domain name dispute one register’s the domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark or trade name of other in order to mint profit by constructing the website in such a fashion that leads to believe the net surffers that real owner of the trade name is the domain name registrant and no other person.

  5. Typosquatting
  6. In Typosquatting one register’s a domain name with a minor change in them thereby making them confusingly similar to the existing trademark/service mark or already registered domain name. It is normally done with respect to well established trademark/service mark or already registered domain name with an intent to cash on their established goodwill by causing confusion in the minds of general public with respect to real owner of such domain name and proceed with making profits from use of such domain name.

  7. Concurrent Claims:
  8. Arises when two legitimate parties are involved in a dispute over a domain name where each of party claims that they are the true and legitimate owner of the domain name in question on account of similar mark being used by both of the claimants in their respective businesses or products.

Resolving Domain Name Disputes:

Domain name dispute may be resolved in one of the following ways:

A. Court proceedings or litigation

Generally, courts all over the world have applied Trademark Laws in order to resolve domain name disputes. Normally the following factors are taken in account by the courts in case of an infringement and/or passing off action with respect to domain name dispute:

Whether the domain name in dispute is:-

i. identical or deceptively similar with the already registered trademark;

ii. identical or deceptively similar to a mark that has acquired reputation in the market;

iii. deceptively similar to already existing domain name;

iv. Adopted in a bad faith;

v. causing confusion or likely to cause confusion in the mind of general public with respect to real owner

vi. causing damage or likely to cause damage in terms of business and goodwill

B. Administrative Proceeding

Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy commonly known as UDRP provides the trademark owners an effective mechanism for resolving the disputes arising out of domain name registered and use in bad faith. UDRP is an international body, formed based on the recommendation of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that provides for resolving domain name dispute regardless of where the registrar, the domain name registrant or complaining trademark owner is located. Under UDRP trademark owner may submit dispute arising from alledge abusive registration of domain name by way of filing a complaint with the approved dispute resolution service provider requesting the resolution of domain name dispute.

In UDRP proceeding with respect to domain name dispute, complainant has to ensure the presence of all the three below mentioned elements:

  • That the impugned Domain name is identical or confusingly similar to his trademark or service mark in which he has rights;
  • That the claimant of impugned domain name has no rights or legitimate interests in it; and
  • That the impugned domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

For constituting that domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith following elements may be taken as evidence:

a. circumstances indicating that impugned domain name has been registered or acquired primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the bona fide owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that owner, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name.

b. impugned domain name is registered in order to prevent the bona fide owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that the allegee have engaged in a pattern of such conduct.

c. impugned domain have been registered primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of the bona fide owner of the trademark or service mark.

d. by using the impugned domain name, allegee intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to his website or other online location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the bona fide owner of the trademark or service mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of his website or location or of a product or service on his website or location.


It is recommended that while choosing and adopting a domain name proper availability searches should be conducted. It includes pre-launch trademark searches and domain name searches in order to avoid conflicts and legal hassles. Once a domain name is adopted and business is commenced under it one can incur losses with the onset of any such conflict.

Disclaimer

Actual resolution of legal issues depends upon many factors, including variations of fact and laws of the land. Though the firm has taken utmost care in the preparation of this article, the information contained herein is not intended to constitute any legal advice and the firm cannot accept any responsibility towards those who rely solely on the contents of this article without taking further specialist advice. The reader should always consult with legal counsel before taking action on matters covered by this article.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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