Intellectual Property RightsTrademark In IndiaDegrading the Goodwill of E-commerce Companies by Rogue Websites

August 10, 20200
Snapdeal Private Ltd. v. & Ors.
CS (COMM) No.264/2020 | 20th July, 2020
In the present case, Snapdeal Pvt. Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “the Plaintiff”) incorporated in 2008 as Jasper Infotech Private Limited was later renamed to Snapdeal Pvt. Ltd. The company had launched a website namely; (hereinafter referred to as “the Plaintiff’s website”) in February 2010 being an online marketplace for sellers and buyers to conduct business in the virtual sphere.
Certain rogue websites (hereinafter referred to as “the Defendants”) have identical names with the Plaintiff’s website which tend to portray that they either arise out of or are connected incidentally, with the Plaintiff. Such websites offer fraudulent prize schemes, lotteries and lucky draws which inter alia degraded the Plaintiff’s goodwill continued to infringe the Plaintiff’s registered trademark.
The Plaintiff contended that the Defendants have damaged the commercial and statutory interest of the Plaintiff and have also defrauded gullible customers, by making them falsely believe that the Defendants are associated with the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff further instituted John Doe suit against all the Defendants whose particulars are not known yet but carry the illegal activity mentioned hereinabove.
Additionally, the Plaintiff arrayed the domain registrars of the Defendants (hereinafter referred to as “the Domain Registrars”) along with the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and National Internet Exchange of India (hereinafter referred to as “the Authorities”) so as to enable the Court to pass orders efficaciously.
The following issue was considered by the High Court of Delhi:
Whether the Defendants, through their rogue websites, were infringing the registered trademark of the Plaintiff and harming the Plaintiff’s goodwill?
The High Court noted that the Plaintiff had approached the Court in similar circumstances, where the Court had issued an interim order dated 01.11.2018, in Jasper Infotech Private Limited vs. Aadi Sins & Ors. CS (COMM) 1214/2018.
In the above case, the Plaintiff had instituted a suit for ex-parte ad-interim injunction to be granted against various third-party websites/domains bearing the infringing trademark of Snapdeal and offering lucky draw/lottery schemes.
The Court on being satisfied with the contentions of the Plaintiff passed an order of injunction restraining the Defendants infringing the Plaintiff’s trademark and passing off their activities and business as that of the Plaintiff. The Court had further ordered domain registrars to suspend the domains infringing Plaintiff’s trademark.
The Court observed that prima facie the current case was in favour of the Plaintiff and that the balance of convenience also favoured the Plaintiff. Also, the public at large would be defrauded by such rogue websites as they mislead into believing that the fraudulent activities of prize schemes, lotteries and lucky draws are connected directly or incidentally to that of the Plaintiff.
The Court in Para 9 of the judgment observed that:
“According to me, the plaintiff has, no doubt, been able to set up a prima facie case in its favour. The balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff inasmuch as continuation of such fraudulent prize schemes, lotteries and lucky draws have the ability to affect a large number of persons who would be deluded into believing that the fraudulent prize schemes, lotteries and lucky draws either emanate from the plaintiff or the plaintiff is, in some way, connected with them.”
Further, the Court observed that furtherance of such activities by the Defendants would jeopardise the Plaintiff’s interest along with that of the public at large.
The Court passed an order of injunction against the Defendants to carry on activities either under the Plaintiff’s trademark or any other trademark having deceptive similarity to the Plaintiff’s trademark.
Further, the Court ordered the Domain Registrars to suspend or block the Defendant’s domain names registered with them. The Court also ordered different Domain Registrars to block respective domains registered under them.
Additionally, the Court ordered the Authorities to issue appropriate notifications to the concerned Internet Service Providers to block access to the Defendant’s websites.
The Court also granted leave to the Plaintiff to array rogue websites as Defendants as when they receive notice about them carrying on similar illegal activities, without requiring to file a fresh action for infringement.
Through this Order, the Court has reiterated a well settled position of law regarding infringement of registered intellectual property. Accordingly, the Court granted interim injunction to restrict the Defendants from infringing the registered trademark of the Plaintiff.
Apart from the infringement of Plaintiff’s registered trademark, the action of the Defendants also damaged the reputation and goodwill of the Plaintiff. The activities carried on by the Defendants were fraudulent in nature, based on deceiving the public by passing of as the Plaintiff or as connected to the Plaintiff. The Defendants took undue advantage of the Plaintiff’s goodwill with malafide to make wrongful gains.
The High Court took note of the above illegal activities of the Plaintiff and noted that the prima facie case was in the Plaintiff’s favour, with the balance of convenience tilted towards the Plaintiff.
In order to prevent further harm to the reputation and goodwill of the Plaintiff and to preserve the trademark rights of the Plaintiff, the Court rightly granted an order of injunction against the Defendants, directed the Domain Registrars to revoke the domain registrations by the Defendants and further notified the Internet Service Providers to block access to such rogue websites.
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