A single judge bench of the High Court of Delhi comprising of Justice C. Hari Shankar recently granted an ex-parte injunction in favour of the Plaintiff, Indiamart Intermesh and permanently restrained defendant No. 1, Mr. Sameer Samim Khan from using and illegally appropriating the registered trademark of the Plaintiff “INDIAMART”.
The plaintiff is a business-to-business (B2B) portal that provides an online marketplace for businesses to promote their products and services through free and paid listings. The platform facilitates interaction between buyers and sellers. The plaintiff has various awards to its name and claims to be India’s first B2B directory, which commenced operations in 1996.
The plaintiff coined and adopted the mark “INDIAMART” in 1996 and is the registered proprietor of the domain name http://www.indiamart.com. The said mark is also registered under various classes as a word mark, both in combination with other marks and in device forms under the Trade Marks Act 1999. The plaintiff also has various ‘INDIAMART’ domain names registered under several extensions.
The plaintiff claims that the mark has achieved a well-known status and has become distinctive of the plaintiff’s products and services owing to the immense reputation it has built since its inception.
Defendant No. 1 got the impugned domain name https://india-mart.co/ registered in his favour on August 7, 2022. The website featured photographs of the plaintiff’s promoters and provided the details of the plaintiff’s address. On the said website, Defendant No. 1 was offering ‘work from home’ jobs under “Indiamart’s Data Entry Project”. The said website offered various plans which could be availed by anyone after payment of application fees of Rs. 899/- and 1199/.
The plaintiff filed a suit for a permanent injunction against Defendant No. 1 for its illegal and unauthorized adoption and use of the plaintiff’s registered mark to deceive and dupe the public and trade by misrepresenting himself as the Plaintiff/ Plaintiff’s representative.
Proceedings before the Court
The plaintiff had sought exemption from advance service to Defendant No. 1. Owing to the nature of the matter and the fact that the Defendant had registered the domain name https://india-mart.co/ and was fraudulently offering jobs using the name of the plaintiff, the Court had granted the exemption and proceeded to pass an ex-parte ad interim injunction in favour of the plaintiff and restraint the Defendant “from using the mark ‘INDIAMART’ or any other mark or name or domain name which is identical or confusingly / deceptively similar to the plaintiff’s mark INDIAMART.”
While granting the said interim injunction, the Court also observed, “If the activities of Defendant No.1 are not nipped in the bud, the irreparable injury would be caused not only to the Plaintiff but also to the public at large that may be deceived by the fraudulent activities of Defendant No.1.”
Even after providing sufficient opportunity to Defendant No. 1, he chose not to contest the matter or enter an appearance. The Hon’ble court proceeded ex-parte against the Defendant, permanently injuncted the plaintiff from infringing the registered trademark, and awarded punitive damages in favour of the plaintiff.
Observations Of The Court
While granting the interim injunction to the plaintiff, the Court observed that defendant 1 is unmistakably engaged in passing off fraudulent practices by misrepresenting himself as the plaintiff or a representative thereof. Defendant 1 was found to be collecting money to provide job opportunities. The website leaves no room for doubt in the Court’s view that Defendant 1’s entire business is malicious, dishonest, and unlawful, clearly violating the law.
The Court was satisfied that the three requirements for granting an interim injunction were met. The plaintiff had a prima facie case against defendant No. 1; the balance of convenience lay in favour of the plaintiff, and irreparable harm would be caused to the plaintiff if the injunction was not granted.
While deciding the matter in finality, the Court observed that there is no contentious issue that arises which would require evidence to be led and that “the case is crystal clear”. The Court added that defendant No. 1 was apparently aware of the fact that there was no substantive defence to offer and hence chose not to file a written statement.
The Court directed the fake domain name used by defendant No.1 to be blocked and asked the cyber unit of Delhi Police to carry out a necessary investigation into the matter. The Court, considering the manner in which defendant 1 has resorted to a nefarious scheme to dupe innocent persons, in the process infringing the plaintiff’s registered trade mark and representing itself as associated with the plaintiff, awarded the plaintiff Rs. 10 lakhs as damages.
The decision of the Court is a representation of the commitment of the Indian legal system towards upholding the rights of registered users and safeguarding them as well as the public from any potential harm.