Before answering this question whether Trademark Registration can protect your Domain name, we need to know certain concepts. In today’s fast internet growing world, protection of Domain Names cannot be ignored. Domain names serves the same purpose for online business which Trademark performs for offline business. Before proceeding we need to understand the concept of Domain Name. It acts as a nickname given to an IP address. Domain Name works for the internet in a similar way as physical address works in non-virtual world.
Kent R.O. Ltd. is a company who is in the business of manufacturing and selling Water purifiers and due to excessive demand in the market they have started their own website by the name www.kent.com. They chose the said domain name so that existing and prospective customers will be able to locate the website on internet easily.
Trademark is a sign or expression which is capable to characterize one’s products or services and also able to distinguish the same from other products available in the market. For example- Google, Coco-Cola, Pepsi, Calvin Klein etc. all these are Trademarks.
While the trademark signifies the Product/services of a company, the domain name acts as a guide for the Company to the Users on the internet.
Now let’s return to the question whether Registration of Trademark can be extended to Domain names. This question was answered by Hon’ble Supreme Court first time in Satyam Infoway Ltd. Vs Sifynet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. while answering to then emerging question whether Domain Names can be protected as Intellectual property. The Hon’ble Apex Court held that
“With the increase of commercial activity on the internet, a domain name is also used as a business identifier. Therefore, the domain name not only serves as an address for internet communication but also identifies the specific internet site and distinguishes specific businesses or services of different companies. Consequently, a domain name as an address must, of necessity, be peculiar and unique and where a domain name is used in connection with a business, the value of maintaining an exclusive identity becomes critical. “As more and more commercial enterprises trade or advertise their presence on the web, domain names have become more and more valuable and the potential for dispute is high.”
Further in the case of Info Edge (India) Pvt. Ltd. vs. Shailesh Gupta and Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that both the domain names “Naukri.com” of the plaintiff and “Naukri.Com” of the defendant, depicting the nature and type of business activity they carry on are identical or confusingly similar trade mark or service marks. It is also a possibility for an internet user while searching for the website of the plaintiff to enter into the website of the defendant through only a small mis-spelling of the domain name and, in fact, such incident has occurred in the case of the plaintiff itself vis-a-vis the defendant in proof of which a documents is also placed on record. Such diversion of traffic with the sole intention of ulterior gain in the similar business activity by a competitor, requires protection. A court discharging equitable justice should come in aid and for protection of the honest user as opposed to a dishonest user acting on bad faith.”
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While analyzing above mentioned judgments we can reiterate that registered Domain names are protected by the Court of law in case of infringement.
It is pertinent to mention here that while choosing a domain name one must bear in his/her mind that Trademark Examiner will check the name as per Trademark Act and while processing or checking the application, the Trademark Registrar would not consider the elements of a domain name and only the distinct part of the Domain name shall be considered. For Example:
If an application is filed for the registration of the domain Name www.kent.com or www.kent.in, the trademark examiner would not consider domain elements like .com or .in and would only consider the word “Kent”. If that word passes the tests for objections under Section 9 and Section 11 of the Trademark Act, Registrar will proceed to publish the Domain name in the journal.
And therefore, we can conclude that domain names enjoys the protection in India similarly as the protection enjoyed by the trademarks. The only requirement is that domain name fulfils all pre-requisites mentioned under the Indian trademark law. Here, it can be restated that a registered Domain name. Trade-mark promotes and protects brand name, and any unauthorized use of domain name by any person or entity. It also escalates value of the business from any distant place of the world over. Hence, registration and protection of the trademark and domain name are advisable and imperative.
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