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MUMBAI : Thinking of using the trademark of a rival company as a keyword on your website or online app stores? You could be in for legal trouble. The Delhi High Court recently ruled that using trademarked words registered by someone else as keywords to promote your business is a violation of the rights of the owner of the trademark.

Gaming company Head Digital Works Pvt. Ltd had sued Tictok Skill Games Pvt Ltd in the Delhi High Court, claiming the latter was using its trademarks Ace2three and A23 as keywords on the Apple Store. “Whenever any user searched for A23 or Ace2 three on the application store, the first search result in the advertisement section was that of Tictok’s ‘WinZO’ games," said Head Digital, which had its trademarks registered since 2006. Head Digital designs and develops software for skill games, and offers gaming through its website www.a23.com and its mobile application A23.

“So long as key words are being used for promoting a business, using a competitor’s trade mark, the same would be violative of the rights of the trademark," a bench led by Justice Pratibha M. Singh in an order passed on 6 May.

Ashish Singh, managing partner, Capstone Legal said this ruling will set a precedent on what words can be used for search engine optimization (SEO). “The key/search words play a very crucial role here, on the basis of which one finds a certain brand. This was by far was not recognized by the trademark law; therefore, it was done by case law. Although the definition of trademark is very wide, it includes using trademark as well as these keywords. This judgement just goes on to show how the law is progressing and evolving along with technology. Essentially, going forward, it will also be the duty of the publisher to check if the individual is using the correct key words for specific brand names in SEO," said Singh.

Kritika Seth, founding partner, Victoriam Legalis Advocates and Solicitors, said that this is an example of courts addressing a novel form of infringement. “This judicial trend, comprising of rulings in which the courts have been identifying, analysing and addressing the issue of ‘online invisible use of trademark’... as compared to conventional cases of trademark infringement," Seth said.

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