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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused online retailer Snapdeal’s plea seeking temporary relief against domain name registrars (DNRs) in a trademark infringement matter. 

Snapdeal had prayed for suspension of all registrations granted by these registrars alleging that they infringed its trademark “Snapdeal". 

The court said it cannot restrict these DNRs from issuing registration under the “Snapdeal" trademark since it is not permissible for it to hold in advance that every alternative domain name containing the word “Snapdeal" will necessarily be infringing in nature. 

 A domain name registrar handles reservation of domain names and also assigns IP addresses for those domain names.  The court, however, said that DNRs are responsible for ensuring that the alternative domain names they offer do not infringe on any registered trademarks. It further stated that if DNRs provide brokerage services for deceptively identical names, they will be held liable for trademark infringement. 

 A Snapdeal spokesperson said, “We are pleased to see that the court has held that it is the responsibility of the Domain Name Registrars to ensure that the alternative domain names offered by them do not infringe any registered trademarks. It has further held that the DNRs will be held responsible for trademark infringement if they are providing brokerage services for deceptively similar domains. It has, further, asked the registrars to discontinue any algorithm that works in such a manner that there is a possibility of making available infringing alternative domain names. The court has come to a conclusion that DNRs cannot claim safe harbour protection in such cases." 

In its petition before the court, Snapdeal had sought an injunction against DNRs from offering any domain names with its trademark—Snapdeal. A single judge bench of Justice C. Hari Shankar, while refusing an interim relief, said it cannot pass an order to operate in future, restricting DNRs from offering for registration any domain name that included the thread/word “ Snapdeal", as that would be attributing the court a “clairvoyance that it does not possess".  Snapdeal would, therefore, have to necessarily petition the court against each domain name that it finds to be infringing. “This may be a long and cumbersome exercise. It cannot be helped. There is no shortcut to justice," the court said in the judgement.

Snapdeal said third parties that have no connection with it are registering domain names with the word/thread Snapdeal, engaging in illegal activities such as giving lucky draws through websites operating under the said domain names and acting as customer service centres for Snapdeal’s items without the plaintiff’s authorization. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priyanka Gawande

Priyanka Gawande is a senior legal correspondent at Mint. She has worked as legal reporter for four years with both television and digital mediums. Based in Mumbai, she reports on disputes across sectors including banking, corporates and finance. This also includes insolvency and bankruptcy cases and intellectual property rights (IPR) litigation. Her focus also comprises tracking capital markets and disputes relating to securities law. Previously, Priyanka worked with Informist Media for 2.5 years covering major insolvency and bankruptcy cases and corporate developments. She started her career in journalism with Business Television India (BTVi) where she reported on primary markets, banking, finance and insurance companies.
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