Delhi High Court: Pratibha M Singh, J. issued directions to the registrar of domain names whose offices are situated outside India and details are not revealed so that they do not escape injunction order passed by Indian Courts.
The present two suits were filed after discovering that several fraudulent websites bearing Plaintiffs’ well-known marks ‘AMUL’ and ‘DABUR’ are soliciting business from vulnerable customers. Earlier in the case, Dabur India Ltd. v. Ashok Kumar, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 823, dated March 03, 2022, it was noted that there were various domain names and websites, which were operating with the name DABUR such as www.daburdistributor.com & https://daburdistributorships.in. Monies were being collected from vulnerable customers through the said websites.
The DoT and MEITY were directed to block the said fraudulent websites. It was further directed whenever any person or entity registers a mark, name, company, firm etc., the identity of such person is openly available. However, in the case of domain names, this is not so. It appears that disabling the privacy protect feature may be essential to ensure that the identity of the persons registering domain names is clearly visible on the https://www.whois.com database, as also other such databases”.
The Court noted that there are various challenges faced by the Courts in respect of domain names, mobile applications, messaging services wherein various illegal activities are being carried out through the said domain names/websites, applications and messaging services. Such activities include:
- Offering of franchises and distributorships as a means of collecting money from vulnerable Indian customers and citizens.
- Sale of counterfeit, pass off and knock off products.
- Use of infringing domain names and promoting the websites through the said domain names.
- Various other illegal activities including launching of schemes, infringement of copyright, unlawful communications etc.
It was further noted that there are a large number of domain name registering entities located across the globe, who offer domain name registration services in India. A large number of these companies do not have any base or office in India. Therefore, it has become increasingly challenging to enforce orders passed by Indian Courts against these companies in respect of:
- Blocking/suspension of the website/domain name,
- Transfer of domain name,
- Revealing details of the registrants,
- In a large number of cases, even upon the said registrant’s details being revealed, it is found that the said registrants’ names, contact details etc. are either non-existent or fictitious.
- The manner in which payments are being collected through these websites.
The Court observed that there is a need for the authorities to keep a check against such registering authorities which do not have offices in India. While on the one hand, services of such companies are being offered in India and huge revenues are collected by these companies from India, it is seen that due to lack of physical office or assets in India, the orders passed are not being given effect to in an efficient and proper manner.
The Court gave directions to ensure that the names of the registrants which are found to be fictitious, non-existent, or whose proper details are not revealed, do not escape injunction orders, the Registrars of domain names henceforth shall:
- Disclose the details as available on their database of all the persons registering the said impugned domain names;
- Disclose the details of the payments received by them for registering the domain name as also for any other services which may have been provided such as website hosting services, cloud services, etc.
[Dabur India Ltd. v. Ashok Kumar, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1784, decided on 2 June, 2022]
For petitioner- Ms Kripa Pandit and Mr Anirudh Bakhru
For respondent- Mr Alipak Banerjee and Mr Brijesh Ujjainwal for D-4.
Ms Geetanjali Viswanathan, Ms Kruttika Vijay and Ms Aishwarya Kane, for D-5.
Mr K.G. Gopalakrishnan and Ms Nisha Mohandas for D-7.
Mr Moazzam Khan and Ms Shweta Sahu for D-15.
Mr Harish Vaidyanathan Ms S. Bushra Kazim, Mr Srish Kumar Mishra and Mr Sagar Mehlawat for UOI