IP in online streaming industry

The online industry refers to internet access to databases, shopping, news, weather, sports, etc. Today the online sector has been growing at a rapid pace. This is more so because of the Coronavirus Pandemic which has made our mobility difficult. Such a development would inevitably require our legal system to regulate the sector. While the online sector is basically a contract between the online site, retailer, and the buyer, thus, it is mostly governed by the Indian Contract Act and Consumer Protection Act, the intellectual property law also has a role to play in it.

Domain Name Protection

Before discussing how IPR regulates the E-commerce sector, let us first explain the different types of E-commerce activities. It could be business to business where the manufacturer sells to the retailers, business to consumer, or even consumer to consumer. Now for the E-commerce sector, it is very important to protect the domain name. The Domain Name can be protected under trademark law. In Satyam Infoway vs Sifynet Solutions, the Supreme Court of India, for the very first time, acknowledged that Domain Names could be protected under the trademark law. For example, in a very recent case of LOREAL SA vs Ashok Kumar & Another, the Delhi High Court was prompt in taking down the fake websites that were impersonating themselves as the agents of famous beauty brand LOREAL. It was a John Doe Order where the order was given against unknown defendants. On other occasions also, the court has given relief against cyber-squatters. For example, in Rediff Communications Ltd. vs Cyberbooth, the cyber-squatter was running a website under the name www.Radiff.com which provided email service. The plaintiff argued that such a domain name is deceptively similar to their domain name which is www.Rediff.com. This domain name was already registered with International Cooperation for Assigned Names And Numbers (ICANN). Thus, the Bombay High Court asked the defendant to take down the website because its sole purpose was to trade up on the plaintiff’s domain name. Similarly, in Acqua Minerals Ltd. vs. Mr. Pramod Borse & Anr where the defendant had registered its domain name by the name www.bisleri.com which was also the trademark of the famous drinking water company. Thus, the Delhi High Court asked the defendant to transfer the domain name to the plaintiff drinking water bottle company. Further, all the contents of a website are protected under the copyright law.

Search Engines

Apart from domain name, Search Engines are also very important for E-commerce companies. This is because the search engines make the user’s website more visible to the customers. Such Search Engines are protected under both patent and trademark law. This has been held by the Delhi High Court in the recent case of M/S DRS Logistics Pvt. Ltd vs Google India Pvt. Ltd. The court held that Google cannot permit any third party plaintiff’s registered trademark as a keyword. Here the plaintiff’s trademark was appearing as the keyword on a Google Search. However, after clicking on that keyword, the user was diverted to a different website.

Hot News Doctrine

Since the online industry also involves giving news and information through the internet, sometimes it becomes necessary to protect such information. This is more so when the information has great value only for a short period of time. Eg: Match scores. Now if such information is given through SMS or on online portal, then naturally people having the broadcasting rights tend to lose profit. However, the question arises whether news items could be granted copyright protection. The Delhi High Court in Star India Pvt. Ltd vs Piyush Agarwal answered in negative and held that there should be no restrictions on disseminating such information. However, in order to protect the interests of the broadcasting channels, the court held that such information should be disseminated after a time gap of 15 minutes so that sports TV channels do not lose their subscribers.

These are few of the ways in which the Intellectual Property Right could be used to cater to the needs of the online industry.