All business owners, brand owners, manufacturers and service providers operate websites that showcase their products and services under a range of brands. In this digital age, websites have become an essential requirement for starting and growing businesses. These websites provide insight into the companies, their business models, their range of products and / or services, etc. and make it easier for customers to identify, compare and select the best products or services. Consumers use search engines like Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc. to get information and access websites. Each search engine has its own complex algorithm to organize relevant information according to the keywords searched for. Keywords entered into search engines enable them to categorize websites and enable users to find web pages quickly.1 A large percentage of users only review the initial search results that are displayed by the search engines, and this is why companies are in invest the attempt to get them to their websites within those initial searches. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the process of improving websites for improved search results. The combination of tiny changes to different parts of the website can result in an improved user experience and improved search results. These changes can be made through various methods such as link building, managing content on the website by including frequently searched words and phrases, adding certain keywords to the website’s metadata2, and so on.
Hence, SEO is a marketing tool that many companies use to increase traffic to their websites. Registered trademarks can easily be added to the title tags in the main body of a website using hidden HTML codes. To get such results, companies often use a competitor’s brand name as SEO in order to get the highest visibility from potential customers. Even a small change in search engine optimization enables companies to rank themselves higher in search results.
There are currently no separate laws in India regulating the use and misuse of meta tags and search engines. The courts usually take into account the provisions of the Trademark Act3 in addition to the Competition Act4, the Code of Civil Procedure5 etc. when deciding on disputes of this kind.
Section 29 of the Trademark Act 1999 deals with infringement of registered trademarks, and Section 29 subsection 8 states, among other things, that advertising for that trademark infringes a registered trademark if that advertising takes advantage of an unfair advantage and is contrary to honest industrial or commercial practices Affairs. “
In the seminal case of Cosim Info Pvt. Ltd v Google India Pvt. Ltd. 6, the Madras High Court ruled that it is a co-infringement by Google if unique brands are offered through its AdWords services.
In the case of People Interative (I) Pvt. Ltd. against Gaurav Jerry & Ors. Defined the Bombay High Court meta-tagging and discussed trademark infringement through the use of meta-tags. It was found that “the defendant’s shaadihishaadi.com used the reputation of the plaintiff’s shaadi.com and that the defendant had clearly hijacked internet traffic from the plaintiff’s website in the form of online piracy.” 7 The court issued an injunction and stipulates that in the event of a misuse of trademarks and inclusion in meta tags, an infringement of the trademark must be determined in accordance with Section 29 of the law and the burden of proof also lies with the trademark owner in order to demonstrate the likelihood of confusion.
The Indian judiciary has also discussed jurisdiction in matters relating to the World Wide Web, stating that matters relating to the Internet have global jurisdiction and should not be limited to the territorial jurisdiction of the defendant’s place of residence. 8th
Recently, the Delhi Supreme Court reprimanded the online insurance company PolicyBazaar (plaintiff) in an injunction filed against “ACKO” (defendant) for using its “policybazaar” brand as an AdWord / keyword advertisement on Google . Plaintiffs were held responsible for hiding information that they themselves had used the defendant’s registered trademark “ACKO” as a keyword. The court fined the plaintiffs for unfair behavior because the plaintiffs themselves had bid for the defendant’s trademark “ACKO” for almost a year.
SEO is directly related to a company’s online success. As a result, the traffic generated on the company’s website increases the visibility of the website to potential consumers. However, the unfair and illegal use of registered trademarks as keywords, metatags, names and phrases results in trademark infringement and irreparable loss for the trademark owner. There is an urgent need to understand and address the problems culminating in cyberspace regarding intellectual property. Although only a limited number of such cases have been decided by the Indian courts, it is certain that such disputes will increase in the near future. Hence, strict laws need to be put in place to curb the malicious activities related to the misuse of registered trademarks as meta tags or keywords.