Court requires banks to join fight against scammers

By Manisha Singh and Simran Bhullar, LexOrbis
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More cases of online scamming, phishing and fraud have come to light in the recent past. In January 2022, the Delhi High Court granted an interim order in the case of Kajaria Ceramics Limited v Godaddy.com LLC & Ors, which concerned an alleged online scam and trademark and copyright infringement.

The plaintiffs, Kajaria Ceramics Limited, are one of the largest manufacturers of wall and floor ceramic and vitrified tiles in India. The company caters to a wide range of customers by producing a variety of designer tiles at different price points. The plaintiffs have applied for and registered some 33 trademarks, and own the mark Kajaria. The plaintiffs also own other variations of the mark including domain names, wordmarks, devices, logos and taglines in various classes.

Manisha Singh, LexOrbis, Court requires banks to join fight against scammers
Manisha Singh
Partner
LexOrbis

The plaintiffs came across a website with the URL www.kajariadealership.com, after conducting a web search on Google.com. This website was a replica of the plaintiff’s website www.kajariaceramic.com and was falsely offering dealerships for INR1 million (USD13,000) to members of the public to sell Kajaria tiles. To make matters worse, the Google search returned the alleged infringing website as a top-level result. The plaintiffs filed a report with their local cybercrime police unit for further investigation.

The plaintiffs named the unknown infringer, as well as the domain name provider GoDaddy Inc, the banking services provider, and the mobile network service provider, as defendants. The plaintiffs brought the case seeking a mandatory injunction against the infringer operating the website and using the name of the plaintiff’s registered mark Kajaria, and to restrain the defendants from infringing and misusing the plaintiffs’ registered trademark, copyright, and domain name.

Simran Bhullar, LexOrbis, Court requires banks to join fight against scammers
Simran Bhullar
Associate
LexOrbis

The court found in favour of the plaintiff and stated that the infringer-defendant was defrauding the public by pretending to be authorised to offer and grant dealerships on behalf of the plaintiffs. The infringer-defendant also persuaded the dealership applicants to reveal their personal data such as Aadhaar codes, the national identity scheme, PANs, or the permanent account numbers allotted to citizens by the Income Tax Department, and bank statements, which the court concluded could be later misused. The court accepted that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable damages if the defendants were not stopped from misusing their name.

The court restrained the defendants and their representatives from misusing the plaintiffs’ registered intellectual property (IP) including Kajaria and its variations, the copyright in the brand logo, website content and domain names, website, email IDs, corporate materials and social media accounts. The court directed the other defendants to suspend the domain name kajariadealership.com, freeze the bank accounts of the infringer-defendant, disable service for the mobile numbers used by the phisher and to share the phisher’s details. The plaintiffs were also permitted to proceed against entities as and when they come across others also involved with the infringer-defendant. The phishing website has now been taken offline and the matter will be further heard in July 2022.

In addition to defrauding unsuspecting victims, online scams target well-known brands and take advantage of their reputation with the public. To tackle scams, IP owners should approach service providers such as banks, mobile network providers and domain name providers, and ask them to provide the particulars of those infringing their IP rights. These entities may unknowingly support such activities, but this can be an advantage since reputable companies should be eager to co-operate with IP owners and to reveal details of the scammers. Brands should be vigilant and proactively issue disclaimers or warn the public of such scams as soon as they come to know of them.

This will save potential victims from falling prey to fraud. Members of the public should also confirm the legitimacy of services, particularly when they are asked to make an immediate online payment. They should either contact the main office of the brand or physically visit one of its offices and ask about the correct procedure to obtain such services. In any event, those receiving dubious offers should be sceptical and inform the company that its name is being used in that way.

Manisha Singh is a partner and Simran Bhullar is an associate at LexOrbis.

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