Commercial transaction within the jurisdiction of court has to be established in a passing off action

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court returned a plaint on grounds of want of jurisdiction and vagueness of cause of action raised in an IA before it. The original suit was filed by the plaintiff, seeking a decree of permanent injunction restraining passing off and to claim damages against all defendants.

The plaintiff is a media house which operates a Hindi news channel by the name of ‘News Nation’ which is circulated across the country by way of cable streaming, DTH and online streaming. Plaintiff claimed considerable goodwill associated with the trade name. However, the trade name was pending before the Registrar of Trademarks, Delhi and hence, was not trademarked. The plaintiff claimed that Defendants 2 and 3 established a media house and started publishing a newspaper titled ‘News Nation Gujarat’ and that they also run a website with the domain name www.newsnationgujarat.com along with an interactive Facebook page titled “news nation Gujarat”. The plaintiff claimed that since the newspaper is also circulated through the internet and is hence, available to users in Delhi, the Court has jurisdiction to try the suit. Another grounds the plaintiff took was that it had received queries relating to the defendant media house from M/s Prime Time Communications, based in Delhi, expressing it’s intention to advertise in the said newspaper.

The Court held that merely hosting a web page on Facebook is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction on a court where the defendant does not carry out business. The Court also found that in a passing off action, the plaintiff has to plead and establish there has been a commercial transaction within the jurisdiction of the Court, which the plaintiff has failed to do. Resultantly, the Court, after being satisfied that it does not have jurisdiction to entertain the suit, returned it. [News Nation Networks Private Limited v. News Nation Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 12698, decided on 22.12.2017]

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