Rediff Communication Limited v. Cyberbooth & Anr.
AIR 2000 Bombay 27
Plaintiff, Rediff Communication Limited was an on line media company carrying on the business of communication and providing services through the internet since 6th January 1997. On 8th February 1997, Plaintiff registered the domain name ‘REDIFF.COM’, with Network Solutions, Inc.
In March, 1999, Plaintiff learnt that the Defendants have obtained registered the domain name ‘RADIFF. COM’.
Plaintiff filed a suit for permanent injunction restraining the Defendants from using the mark/domain name ‘RADIFF’ or any other similar name as to pass off or enable others to pass off their business or goods or services as for the business or goods or services of the Plaintiff.
• Action of the Defendants in adopting and registering the word and domain name ‘RADIFF’ and establishing and broadcasting a web page on the Internet with the title ‘RADIFF ONLINE’ is clearly intended to cause members of the public to believe that the Defendants are associated with the Plaintiff and/or part of the Rediffusion group with whom the words and mark ‘REDIFF’ are exclusively associated.
• ‘RADIFF’ is coined by taking the first three letters of the word ‘radical’, the first letter of the word ‘information’, the first letter of the word ‘future’ and the first letter of the word ‘free’. It is contended that there is no likelihood of deception or confusion between ‘REDIFF’ and ‘RADIFF’. There is no similarity between the two.
• Plaintiff’s website is more in the nature of a ‘web newspaper’ and provides various services from news to shopping whereas the Defendant’s website mainly provides ‘hyper text links’ to its advertisers.
• The manner of watching information on the Internet is such that there is no likelihood of deception or confusion between ‘www-rediff.com’ and ‘www-radiff.com’.
• User of the Internet can never connect to a website by mistake.
• There is no evidence about the alleged reputation in the domain name ‘REDIFF’.
The controversy in this case centered around the protection of domain name on the Internet. The issue was, whether as a result of misrepresentation, a real likelihood of confusion or deception to the public can be caused, resultantly leading to consequent damage to the Plaintiffs.
Undoubtedly the name used by the Defendant is identical to the Plaintiff’s and there is every possibility that it could create deception and confusion.
The principle underlying the action for passing off is that no one is entitled to carry on his business in such a way as to lead to the belief that he is carrying on the business of another man or to lead to believe that he is carrying on or has any connection with the business carried on by another man. Both the Plaintiff and the Defendants are operating on the website and providing information of similar nature and offer facility of sale of books, music cassettes and compact discs and flowers. Both offer a chat line and both presently offer a cricket opinion poll. There can be no doubt that the two marks/domain names. ‘REDIFF’ of the Plaintiff and ‘RADIFF’ of the Defendants are almost similar. When both domain names are considered it is clearly seen that two names being almost similar in nature there is every possibility of internet user being confused and deceived in believing that both domain names belong to one common source and connection although two belong to different persons.
The court is prima facie satisfied that the only object in adopting the domain name ‘RADIFF’ was to trade upon the reputation of the Plaintiff’s domain name.
The argument that the field of activity is different is also without any substance as the field of activity of Plaintiff and the Defendants is clearly similar and overlapping.
A domain name is more than an Internet address and is entitled to the equal protection as trade mark.
Author: Anjali Bisht, Law College, Dehradun