Trademarks are to the real world, what domain names are to the virtual world; Trademarks are vital to every business because they help consumers associate the goods or services provided by them to that particular trademark thereby building reputation. Similarly, the Internet is the first port of call for anyone who wants to find  information about anything and therefore, it is essential for a company to make its presence felt in the virtual world through a website.

What are domain names?

For the benefit of the uninitiated and those living under a rock, all web pages have unique IP (Internet Protocol) addresses which are numeric (eg. will direct you to and they indicate the name of the website. It is easily represented by domain names which are more recognisable and memorisable (to most at least). For instance, in; .com is the top-level domain name and Google is the secondary level domain name.

The Problem

There have been a number of instances where a company wants to use its trademark as a domain and they learn that someone else has already been using that domain. Another common occurrence is finding other people using your domain name with a different country code top level domain (.in for India, .uk for the United Kingdom etc). In such cases, taking the relevant legal action before the appropriate forum is very important.  This article discusses the procedure involved in recovering a .in domain registered under the .IN Registry in India.

Who can file a complaint?

Any person who believes that someone else’s domain name is in conflict with his intellectual property rights on grounds that it is identical or similar to his IP or that the other party has registered the domain without legitimate interests or in bad faith can file a complaint under INDRP in accordance with rules laid down.

Where to file a complaint?

In India, we have the Nation Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) which facilitates a neutral ground for exchange of domestic Internet traffic. The .IN registry is a part of NIXI and primarily maintains the .in domain name in India. IN Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (INDRP) lays down the rules and regulations for resolving disputes arising out of registration and use of the .in domain name.

How to file a complaint?

The complaint should be in accordance with the rules of Dispute Resolution Policy and Rules of Procedure and should be sent to the .IN Registry by post and by email.

A complain generally has to incorporate the following information

  • Request for arbitration
  • Contact details of complainant and respondent
  • Disputed domain name
  • Service marks or trademarks or any other marks to be used in the future
  • Grounds for complaint
  •      i.  the domain name in question is identical or confusingly to the complainant’s trademarks [The Arbitrators over time have held it to include both registered and unregistered trademarks]
  •      ii. the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in using the domain. The Arbitrators generally look into certain factors when deciding this, for instance if the respondent doesn’t have any connection with the mark or the goods or services  or is not offering any goods or services on that webpage or the respondent is using it as merely a parking page which gives links to other web pages
  •      iii. the domain name in question should be considered as having been registered and being used in bad faith. While bad faith is a general term, the Arbitrator will look for certain circumstances which indicate bad faith, for instance  if the respondent is selling the domain for an excessive price or is linking it to the website of the complainant’s competitors or for any other activity that would be considered as in bad faith.
  • Remedies sought – In general you would want the rights to use the contested domain
  • Details of other legal proceedings or actions, if any

Notification to the Respondent

If the complaint is in accordance with the procedure and the fee has been paid, the complaint will be forwarded to the respondent within 3 working days. If it not in the prescribed manner, the complainant has to be notified within 3 days of receipt of complaint and he has to rectify the deficiencies within 5 days of receiving such notice, failing which it will be deemed to be withdrawn.  Following this, an arbitrator will be appointed and he will decide the date of commencement of the proceedings.

Communication between the Parties and Registry

It is the duty of the registry to ensure that the respondent receives notice of complaint by any of the following means – post, e-mail or any address the respondent has notified to the registry. Any other communication can be by way of facsimile and post. It shall be in the language as prescribed under the rules. The date of communication differs from one mode of communication to another.

  • Facsimile – date shown on the confirmation transmission
  • Registered post – 3rd day from the date of dispatch
  • Via the internet – date of transmission of communication

Appointment of panel

The list of arbitrators and their qualifications are publicly available on the website. Generally, they will be appointed within 5 working days of receipt of complaint and removal of objections. The fees to be paid to the arbitrators will be borne by the complainant.

Impartiality and independence of arbitrators

The arbitrators are expected to be impartial and independent. However, under new circumstances if it is not possible for the arbitrator to function impartially, he should disclose those details. A party may challenge an arbitrator’s impartiality or independence by filing a written request to the .IN Registry within 7 days of the notice of appointment stating the circumstances likely to give rise to justifiable doubt along with specific reasons for challenging the impartiality. The .IN registry shall have the discretion to decide in such matters.

Rules relating to the Award

The arbitrator would review both the submissions of both sides and if requested for will appoint a hearing (a total of two hearings may be permitted) and then pass an award on the merits of the case. The award has to be passed with 60 days of commencement of proceedings and under exceptional circumstances it can be extended by a period of 30 days. The decision made by the arbitrator should be in writing and communicated to the parties by the .IN registry within 5 days of receiving it from the arbitrator.  In the course of proceedings, settlement between parties is to be permitted by the arbitrator.


.IN Registry’s Administration Fees – INR 10,000 (~USD 162)

Arbitrator Fees – INR 20,000 (~USD 324)

Personal Hearing Fees – 2,000/- per hearing (Maximum two  hearings) (~USD 33)

Appeal to the award

Since the INDRP follows the Arbitration Proceedings in accordance with the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, the appeal provisions contained in that Act will apply to the INDRP as well. This means that a person has 90 days to appeal the decision of the Arbitrator.

Undertaking by the Registrant

It is interesting to note that the INDRP states that a Registrant represents and warrants that the details in the application are correct and true, that he is not infringing the rights of any third party, that it is not for an unlawful purpose and that it is not in violation of any applicable laws or regulations.  So it would be on the respondent to prove that he does in fact have legitimate rights.

So when you register a .in domain, you need to be aware of the fact that you are undertaking that applying for and registering the domain does not infringe on the rights of someone else. The duty and onus is on the Registrant.

Having people register infringing domain names is getting common these days, as it seems to be a good business model for some. Knowing every avenue under the law to get back a domain, whether through litigation, UDRP, legal notices, negotiation etc. is the key to a successful recovery. The INDRP process is one such weapon in the armoury, which is relatively inexpensive, and fast.

This article has been authored by Nikita, an IP Law practitioner.