Trademark is one of the recognized intellectual property rights in India as well internationally. IPR refers to rights over properties or assets developed by human mind or using man’s intellect. These assets add value to mankind are of economic value. Hence, these deserve to be owned rightfully and to be protected from getting plagiarized and misused. Therefore, such legal rights on intellectually developed properties are called IPR and these can be claimed on logos, designs, formulas movie scripts taglines etc.
Trademark refers to the IPR on brand name, logo or tagline, anything which helps consumers distinguish the brand visually from other products. In other words, it can be said that this graphic representation and tagline is synonymous with the products of the brand. The trademark helps to build bran value and trust among the consumers which in turn reflects in the sales and profits of the company. Therefore, having an established trademark is crucial for every business.
21st century is the era of cyberworld, wherein society has started existing virtually and its directly affecting with the real world. In fact, thanks to social media cyber world is in a way intertwined with the real world as well. Therefore, it does open gates for new business opportunities and profit making it also opens new windows of threats, cybersquatting is one such threat.
Cybersquatting refers to occupying space in the cyber or digital word which did not belong to the squatter. It is invasion of someone’s digital property or to a space which should ideally belong to someone else, but since the rightful owner has not made his claim or utilized that digital space it is open to illegal encroachers.
Cybersquatting happens when well established trademarks and domain names are used by cybersquatting attackers on digital and social media spaces as usernames, social media handles or website domain names where the original owners is either not present or unaware of such predators. Attackers used similar domain names and build deceiving websites or with the same trademark name open a social media page or account. Since once a social media name has been taken it, cannot be copied or re used again, the original trademark owners cannot access their own digital space.
Such cybersquatting inhibits original trademark owners from monetizing their brand over cyber world. Not only that, but it also damages the brand value and trust because of impersonation by the attackers. Since the consumers confuses the Cybersqautter with the original trademark holder, they get defrauded and even duped, damaging the trademark goodwill.
In the famous case of Clean Flicks, Inc. v. Daniel Dean Thompson the defendant’s cybersquatting ruined the Clean Flicks trademark. To put it simply, the defendant created the username Clean Flicks Media on Myspace, a social networking site based in the United States. The defendant attempted to dupe others into believing he was one of the founders of Clean Flicks Media. Finally, he was arrested for possessing child pornographic materials, statutory rape, and numerous other incidents and crimes that reflect an image that is diametrically opposed to the family-friendly image portrayed by Clean Flicks. Due to the defendant’s arrest, news stories linked Clean Flicks Media to him, forcing Myspace and Clean Flicks to take legal action to protect their reputation.
Today protecting a trademark in the digital world as well as in the physical sphere is equally essential. Therefore, while incorporating your business, one should also secure the domain and usernames on digital world and social media platforms, especially the ones which are most popular or those gaining popularity exponentially.
Further, there are platforms like Facebook and Twitter which have legal polices for protecting any IP violation on these platforms, with which one must be well acquainted.
Another business tact would be to also secure all the username and domain names which are similar or close to your own trademark, so that no one can even formulate trademark which is not exactly infringing yours but is deceptive enough, that you may be forced to buy it. this is also one of the motivating forces for Cybersqautters.
In India, the IPR policies are more focussed on physical realm of business however, when businesses are being digitally one should recognize that digital world can equally pose a threat. Hence, there is need for comprehensive IPR policy at national level protecting digital Ips as well, and it should not be just left to the IT Act,2000.
The views are that of author’s own and not necessarily the views of IPTSE Academy. This blog is a platform for academic discussions and hence authors have been given flexibility to convey their thought process.
Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad