Sunday, February 12, 2012

Is Google Ignoring Trademark Violations Claims And Passing Off Remedies?

Google is increasingly facing litigations and legal notices for removal of objectionable contents like copyrighted contents, improperly used trademarks and trade names, religion and cultural sensitive materials, etc. While Google has a well placed and well responsive system that allows users/owners to report offensive contents yet when it comes to trademark protection, Google’s system seems to be flawed.

Google’s Adwords and Adsense trademark policy addresses certain online advertisement related trademark issues. However, it fails to address all forms of trademark violations issues. Especially, it fails to cater the requirements of Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and cyber squatting issues.

ICANN has a crucial role to play in this regard. Accredited registrars with ICANN like MarkMonitor incorporation are not responding to valid legal notices for copyright and trademark violations by domains registered by them that they are duty bound to respond. This is violation of terms of service (TOS) of ICANN and ICANN must take serious note of the same.

Trademark, goodwill and reputation are built after making substantial amount of labour, cost and efforts. Once a domain name/sub domain acquired a distinctiveness and brand, it becomes entitled to trademark protection. Even without statutory registration, such tradename, domain/sub domain, etc are entitled to the passing off protection. However, it seems Google is paying more stress upon registered trademarks and trade names and lesser upon passing off remedies.

If you reallocate your blog address to a new one for better contents managements, the previous address becomes available to public at large. Spammers/cyber squatters are taking advantage of this weakness of Google’s Blogspot platform. The moment a well known blog address becomes available, spammers register the same with mala fide intentions for the sole purpose of cyber squatting. They do not post any contents and keep the sub domain locked for years and Google does not take any action against such cyber squatters.

These spammers/cyber squatters also do not provide any contact details and the only way to get their contact details from Google is to file a court case. Further, if a cyber squatter or spammer uses a well known trademark or tradename, Google’s mechanism is also not effective.

Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) suggest that Google must address trademarks violations in India and abroad more seriously. The present system of Google to redress trademark violations is litigation oriented. It encourages unnecessary litigations even when there is a clear case of copyright or trademark violation. In the Indian context, domain name protection is presently enforced under the trademark law of India.

Google Incorporation’s Indian strategy to counter legal disputes in India should be formulated that must cover various legal issues. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) violation issues as well as cyber law compliances must be essential part of such strategy. Internet intermediary liability and Indian safe harbour provisions must also be part of the same.

Perry4Law and PTLB have suggested that companies like Google and Facebook must appoint nodal officers in India to comply with Indian laws. Facebook seems to agree with this suggestion and it has set up a new grievance redressal mechanism to comply with Indian laws. Perry4Law and PTLB welcome this move of Facebook and hope that Google would also do the same.

Meanwhile, we have filed a DMCA complaint for trademark violation and cyber squatting with Google and we hope Google would do the needful in this regard. We also believe that it is high time that Google must take cyber squatting and spamming more seriously.