The Delhi High Court Friday cautioned domain name registrars (DNRs) while observing that it will not allow them to become “instruments of facilitating scams” on the internet, and that if these entities want to conduct business in India they will have to comply with court orders.
A domain name registrar is a company that maintains internet domain names. Domain names are used to identify and access services provided on the internet.
The high court was hearing a suo motu petition initiated by it pursuant to a reference by a single bench in a lawsuit filed by Tata Play (formerly known as Tata Sky) concerning infringement of its trademark by another website. The suo motu plea pertained to the issue of misuse of trademark of several entities through fraudulent websites and the role of DNRs in such situations.
A division bench led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan pointed out instances where certain DNRs were giving suggestions and offering alternative domain names if the domain sought was already taken; and that the alternative offered in many instances resembled the original names, especially in case of well-known domain names, which could potentially deceive customers.
The division bench, also comprising Justice Mini Pushkarna, said, “Your (DNR’s) status as an intermediary will be in doubt if you are making suggestions. This is why every day scams are taking place. We won’t allow any DNR to become an instrument of facilitating a scam. All these DNRs coming to India who want to conduct business here will have to comply with court orders… People are losing a lot of money on the internet today. There is something very serious which is happening”.
The counsel appearing for Tata Play submitted that entities like his client who are “victims of impersonations” have to come to the court again and again in case of infringement by multiple websites, which is an expensive process.
Taking note of the submission, the Acting Chief Justice said this is an important issue as these impersonating entities are like “hydra-headed monsters, you cut one face and two crop up”.
Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal, appointed as amicus curiae in the suo motu plea, said, “The matter was argued before a single judge of the high court; the context was a website similar to Tata Sky was infringing its trademark. An injunction was granted. The single judge, however, felt that the question of multiple websites cropping up like a hydra existed and a reference was made”.
Kirpal said that he had shared a note with suggestions wherein one of them pertained to passing a “Dynamic Injunction” in such cases of infringement, adding that now it has been followed by multiple judges of the high court. He also said that the role of National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) as an intermediary would also have to be examined.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Darpan Wadhwa, appearing for DNR GoDaddy.com, submitted that his client had filed an impleadment application in the matter. Wadhwa submitted that his client was not running away and was not one of the DNRs that was not complying.
The high court impleaded GoDaddy.com and the Ministry of Home Affairs as parties in the matter and listed it for hearing on January 9, 2024.
Before parting, the high court said the mechanism will be implemented “across the board” and if certain DNRs do not comply, then it will ask the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to block them.
Malavika PrasadMalavika Prasad is a former lawyer and now a City Reporter covering De… read more