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Cyber Squatting: A Disease Which Has A Cure But Has No Procedure To Treat

Delhi High Court in the case of Manish Vij And Ors. vs Indra Chugh And Ors. (AIR 2002 Delhi 243) defined the word cyber squatting as an act of obtaining fraudulent registration with intent to sell the domain name to the lawful owner of the name at a premium

Cyber squatting is also called as domain squatting or typo squatting. In other words cyber squatting is nothing but earning illegitimate money by simple means. The only investment for the typo squatters is an assumption that people may make typological errors while entering the domain names. They reserve the English words so that sooner or later someone would want it. Another tpe is mistyped spellings of popular sites.

Example: www.firefly.com and wwwfirefly.com –here .(dot) is omitted , www.toyota.com and www.tayota.com.

Domain names play a very important role in building the reputation and commercial activities of a company. It is a easy means of communicating with the corporate by the user. Sometimes it is possible to forget the re-registration of domain name even though the legitimate owner holds it. A Cyber squatter relies on this. The registration of domain name is not for a fixed period and if it is not re-registered prior to its expiry then the domain name can be purchased by anybody. In this scenario cyber squatters register the domain name in their names. This process is called renewal snatching.

Even though cyber squatting is a notorious crime there is no special or separate law governing it. The cases related to domain name protection and cyber squatting are dealt under Trade Marks Act, 1999.

What can a victim do?

The victim can sue the cs under the provisions of Anti Cyber squatting Consumer Protection Act or choose international arbitration by Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Number (ICANN). ICANN developed Uniform Domain name Resolution Policy (UDRP). Under UDRP, WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) is the leading ICANN accredited domain name dispute resolution service provider and was established as a vehicle for promoting protection and dissemination. India is one of the 171 states of the world which are members of WIPO.

Victims in India are provided with various options like:

  1. Cease and desist
  2. Option for arbitration under ICANN rules
  3. Going for a trail

India has its own registry named National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI). It is also a fast track form for resolving the case. This NIXI resolves the dispute under the policies of IN Dispute Resolution Policy (INDRP) which was formulated with international guidelines and relevant provisions of Information Technology Act 2000.IT Act does not provide for any legal compensation but the registry took necessary steps to compensate the loss of victims.

Unlike many developed countries India failed to adopt modern elements in this dynamic society. Then came the very first case before the Indian courts- Yahoo! Inc v. Akash Arora and others. The plaintiff i.e. Yahoo Inc is a renowned company for its services across the globe. It is the owner of Yahoo! trade mark and the domain name Yahoo.com. on the other hand the defendant Akash Arora started providing similar services as Yahoo.com under the domain name of Yahooindia.com which is clearly a passing-off. The trade mark of Yahoo had been registered in 69 countries but not India.
  • The issue here was whether the registering of Yahooindia as a domain name by the defendant and offering similar services to those of the plaintiff is infringement?
  • Whether this amounts to passing-off?
Yahoo is a very famous company and known to all and a name which is similar to like that used for same purposes is of course passing-off and defendant is undoubtedly liable. The Delhi High Court rejected the defendant’s contention that an action for passing-off could only be brought against goods and services by virtue of Sec 2(5), Sec 27, 29 and 30 of the Act.

Later many cases like Tata Sons ltd and Anr v. fashion ID ltd, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories ltd v. Manu Kosuri and Anr also had the similar facts.

Cyber squatting is a serious and federal crime in many developed countries like America. Mere drawing the distinction between trade mark and domain name is not necessary.

Bibliography:
  1. Yahoo!, Inc. vs Akash Arora & Anr. on 19 February, 1999
  2. https://www.legalbites.in/5-leading-cases-intellectual-property-rights
  3. https://www.mondaq.com/india/trademark/208840/cyber-squatting-laws-in-india
  4. https://www.bananaip.com/ip-news-center/yahoo-inc-akash-arora

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