Cybersquatting disputes have been on the rise with the influx of websites and content creation. In the recent case, Bombay High Court addresses this important issue providing some clarity on the nature of reliefs applicable in domain name cyber squatting disputes – disputes relating to the wrongful or fraudulent use of trademarks as domain names. The Domain Name servers are just like the telephone directory which provides a lot of domain name which are not owned but are registered for a fee for a specified time.
Hindustan Unilever Limited ("HUL") has registered www.hul.co.in and www.unilever.com. It came across third-party registered websites, such as 'email@example.com', 'unilevercare.co.in', 'unilevercare.org.in', 'www.unlevercare.co.in' which were similar to its own domain name. These domain names were registered through Endurance Domains, GoDaddy, or Porkbun. HUL approached the Bombay High Court seeking remedies. The remedies as requested by the plaintiff was the suspension and blocking access to these fraudulently registered domain names which are creating confusion in the mind of the consumer and are also taking money on a false premise. The Court in this case discussed the technology of the domain name and what suitable remedy could be given in such a case.
The contention of granting an injunction against the IN Registry was not acceptable by the court observing that it does not have any control or responsibility for registering the specific domain name. They are merely administering the function of a domain name under the '.in'. The court deliberated on the second contention put by the plaintiff who was against the domain name registrars like Endurance, GoDaddy, etc. for ensuring the continued suspension and blocking access to the domain name that could be granted.
The court observes that taking any action against the domain name registrar will not eventually block the website which is only possible through an order by the government or by the court to an ISP. Also, Domain name registrars are not responsible for ensuring access to the online source. Therefore, any such order for blocking will be ineffective. The domain name registrar can suspend the registration but cannot block access to the domain name. The inefficiency with access blocking is easily understandable. If the user is using a virtual private network, it can establish a secure connection to another network and therefore can easily bypass region restriction.
The court while addressing the issue of continued suspension held that such suspension might not be possible at least with the current technology. Since the suspension will continue for the end of the registration period and as soon as the domain name is free, it is again available worldwide which any applicant can register. The plaintiff can communicate with the defendant for suspension of infringing domain name registrations and/ or any web hosting privileges.
Denying the request by the plaintiff to devise a suitable mechanism that can prevent the plaintiff to regularly come to court, the court held that-
"Eternal vigilance is not just the price of liberty; it is also the cost of doing large-volume business. It does not think it is for any court to come up with mechanisms to protect the Plaintiff's interest at low or no cost, or by turning a plaintiff into judge, jury, and executioner, let alone sub-contracting out what the Court believed to be a serious judicial function of assessing and balancing rival merits. What should or should not be suspended (or blocked) is for a government to decide, not some litigant." This case is an important part to understand the role of intermediaries involved in any such disputes. Also, this case despite granting injunction recognized that such orders for blocking should be done after judicial scrutiny.
Topic- Cybersquatting: HUL in Dispute
Meta Description- The case of Cybersquatting has been on the rise. In the latest case of HUL vs. Endurance, the Bombay High Court tries to provide some clarity.
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