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Resolving the Tangle: Domain Name vs Trademark Dispute & Computer-Related Patents in India

Domain names are essentially web addresses that guide users to specific websites on the internet. In the digital age, these domain names have become extremely valuable and are often registered as trademarks. However, conflicts often arise when a domain name infringes upon a registered trademark, creating a legal battle between the trademark owner and the domain name holder.

Legislation Governing Domain Name and Trademark

In India, domain names are protected under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Trademarks Act, 1999. The Trademarks Act offers protection against trademark infringement, including instances when domain names are misleadingly similar to existing trademarks. The IT Act further strengthens this protection, with provisions against cyber squatting and typo-squatting.


Case Law - Domain Name vs Trademark

One of the landmark cases in India addressing this issue is "Tata Sons Limited vs Manu Kosuri & Ors", where the Delhi High Court confirmed that a domain name has all the characteristics of a trademark. The court recognised the likelihood of confusion and deception because of the phonetic and visual similarity between the domain name "bodacious-tatas" and the Tata trademark.


The Realm of Computer-Related Patents

Computer-related patents, often called software patents, are a category of patents that protect inventions related to computer programs or processes. In India, the patenting of software is regulated under the Patents Act, 1970.


Legislation Governing Computer-Related Patents

Section 3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970, stipulates that a mathematical or business method, a computer program per se or algorithms are not inventions and hence, not patentable. However, the Patent Office of India, through its guidelines, has clarified that if the software has a technical application or generates a technical effect, it may be patentable.


Case Law - Computer-Related Patents

In the case of "Ferid Allani v Union Of India & Ors", the Delhi High Court clarified the scope of patentability for software. The court held that even though software per se is non-patentable, if the software leads to a further technical effect or has a technical application, then such software can be patentable.


Conclusion

Navigating the intersection of domain names and trademarks can be a tricky task. It necessitates careful selection of domain names that do not infringe upon any existing trademarks. On the other hand, the realm of computer-related patents requires an understanding that not all software is patentable. Only those with a technical application or resulting in a technical effect have a chance at being granted patents. Understanding these subtleties can be crucial for businesses operating in the digital domain. As technology continues to evolve, the line between what is and isn't patentable or trademark-able will continue to blur, making it all the more important for businesses to stay aware and ahead of these changes.


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