India: Domain Name Laws

Last Updated: 17 August 2016
Article by Chadha & Chadha IP

I. DOMAIN NAMES INTRODUCTION

The internet revolution has marked the beginning of new age called the "e-age". With the tremendous growth in digital and internet media, the online presence has taken great importance. It is seen as one of the fastest and effective mode of enhancing the public presence. Consumer prefer to do online research about any goods or services which they wish to purchase or avail. Companies market their products through Internet and even sell and accept purchase orders as well. Huge transactions are taking place every day through internet. The plethora of information is just a few clicks away.

DOMAIN NAME

Domain names are the human-friendly forms of an Internet Protocol addresses, and are commonly used to find web sites. A domain name is the online identity of a particular person, establishment or organization. The domain name is the online address of an establishment and leads to the page which the registrant of the domain name wants to be viewed by general public when they visit their Domain. Normally in course of business, traders and companies use their business or trade name as their online Identity or domain name, viz. It is a permanent address that can be accessed from anywhere in the world irrespective of the location of the registrant. Thus it gives a global presence to ones online identity.

DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM (DNS)

The domain name system is a system by which the domain names are allocated an Internet Protocol (IP) addresses which a unique address having actual physical location on internet. It can be said that domain name is the alias name of a numeric IP address. Since it is difficult to memorize the numeric address of the website domain name is more user friendly, as the names can be memorized very easily.

TYPES OF DOMAIN NAMES

Top Level Domain (TLD) & Second Level Domain (SLD)

A domain normally consists of two parts i.e. domainname.com, where ".com" is the Top Level Domain and "domainname" is the Second Level Domain

There are three types of TLD's.

  1. The most common are gTLD's (generic Top Level Domains), which include .Com, .Net, .Org, .aero (for the entire aviation community), .biz (for business purposes), .coop (for cooperatives), .info (unrestricted), .jobs (for human resources), .museum (for museums), .name (for personal names), .pro (for professionals), .travel (for the global travel community)
  2. rTLD's (restricted Top Level Domains) such as .Biz and .US only allow people who meet certain criteria to register domain names.
  3. ccTLD's (country code Top Level Domains) such as .in (India) are individually assigned to countries and their dependencies. These ccTLDs are administered independently by nationally designated registration authorities. There are currently 252 ccTLDs reflected in the database of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority

Registrar and Registrant of Domain name:

A person registering a domain name is called the registrant or the owner of domain name. And the agency which registers the said domain name is called registrar. All the domain names are registered with domain name registrars. There are number of Agencies called Domain Name Registrars which are authorized by the governing bodies to register a domain name and keep a track of all information like renewal, transfer and address details of the registrant in respect of Domain name.

All such data about relating to registration of a domain name is available in the WHOIS record of the domain.

II. DOMAIN NAME DISPUTES

On one hand while domain names enable users to locate computers (and people) in an easy manner, domain names have acquired a further significance as business identifiers and, as such fall into category of intellectual property rights.

Domain name disputes largely comprise of cybersquatting, which means registration of someone's trademark/business name / trade name by third parties as domain names. Since the domain names are registered on first come first serve basis and need no prior approval from any authority about the proprietary rights over the trade name. Which means any person can register a domain name without showing ownership of the trademark/name used n the domain name (however popular it may be). Thus Cybersquatters exploit this rule of the domain name registration system and register names of trademarks, business name or tradenames etc. without having any proprietary rights over said trade marks and names. As the owners of said domain names, cybersquatters deal in sale and actions of said names or use the same to divert the internet traffic and earn by pay per click sponsored advertisements.

Domain name disputes with respect to GTLDs are subject to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Further ccTLD disputes are subject to country specific dispute resolution policy. For India, i.e domain names having .in or .co.in extensions the disputes are subject to INDRP (.IN Domain Dispute Resolution Policy)

A. Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on August 26, 1999 adopted the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) based on recommendations made by WIPO. Under this policy if a trademark holder can initiate a proceeding against a domain name registrant, if he considers that a domain name registration infringes its trademark.

Under the UDRP complainants has to file the complaint giving the details of the domain name in question, the registrant of the domain name (respondent), the registrar with whom the domain name was registered and the grounds for the complaint. The grounds should qualify the central criteria i.e. the way in which the domain name is identical or similar to a trademark to which the complainant has rights; why the respondent should be considered as having no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name that is the subject of the complaint; and why the domain name should be considered as having been registered and used in bad faith.

The respondent has opportunity to defend the complaint against him. The arbitration Panel appointed by WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center appoints a panelist. The said panelist(s) decide the complaint on the grounds mentioned earlier and if complainant is successful in establishing the grounds he may direct the transfer or cancellation of domain name, otherwise the complaint is rejected. The decision of UDRP is implemented in 10 days. The aggrieved party can move to court within said period of ten days. The Panelist under UDRP has no right to pass injunctive reliefs or cost damages.

.IN DOMAIN NAMES AND INDRP

The Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India, has liberalized the policies for registration of country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) with effect from January 1, 2005. This would enable the general public at large to register a domain name in respect of their trade or service mark with .IN and .CO.IN extensions. Thus it will now be possible to register domain name Brand.in and Brand.co.in, subject to Brand being a registered trade/service mark in India.

In the past, only registrations were permitted with the domains .co.in granted to companies having an Indian subsidiary. These norms have now been relaxed and now the entities which do not have a presence in India may also register these domains.

It is highly recommend that registration of domain names is applied in relation to their trade marks for the country code Top Level Domains .in and .co.in

The .IN registry management and operations have now been entrusted with the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) IN Registry is now the official .IN Registry.

From January 1, 2005, all new registrations are to be made through the accredited Registrars. 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 .in, co.in, net.in, org.in, firm.in, gen.in and ind.in domains

The INDRP outlines the types of disputes that can be brought and the criteria that will be considered by the arbitrators. The INDRP Rules of Procedure describe how to file a complaint, how to respond to a complaint, the fees, communications, and other procedures.

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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