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No trademark, copyright rights for FB group, rules Bombay HC

Source: PTI
March 27, 2023 14:56 IST
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The recovery and restoration of ownership of a group on Facebook cannot be termed as a dispute relating to trademark and intellectual property, the Bombay high court said while holding that a civil court has the jurisdiction to hear a suit seeking such declaration.

A single bench of Justice Nitin Sambre passed the order on March 24, a copy of which was made available on Monday, in an application filed by 'The Himalayan Club' against an August 2022 order passed by a civil court in Mumbai refusing to hear its suit seeking declaration of ownership of a Facebook group and that only it has the exclusive rights to control and manage it.

The civil court had held that it had no jurisdiction to hear the suit as the matter pertains to trademark and intellectual property.

 

According to the application, the petitioner club, founded in February 1928, had asked one of its office-bearers, Kanwar Singh, to create internet-based chat groups for better social media outreach.

Singh, on the plaintiff's instructions, created a Facebook group named after the club.

However, Singh took undue advantage of his position and started claiming that the plaintiff had no connection to the said FB group and tried to usurp control of the said group, it said.

   Justice Sambre noted that the FB group is in no way claimed to be a registered trademark of the plaintiff club which Singh allegedly infringed.

”Rather the plaintiff has sought a declaration that it is the owner of the Facebook group and based on the same, ancillary reliefs are claimed,” the court said.

The Facebook Group which is claimed to be of the plaintiff is an internet-based social media platform which provides for members to exchange views, and ideas and to post experiences, messages and photographs, the court said.

”As such, it cannot be said that the Facebook platform is a trademark or copyright. It cannot be said that the recovery and restoration of a Facebook group can be termed to be a dispute relating to trademark,” the order said.

The HC while quashing the civil court's order said the lower court's conclusion that it has no jurisdiction to hear the suit as the dispute pertains to trademark and intellectual property, cannot be accepted.

”The civil court has misguided itself by inferring that the ownership of Facebook Group amounts to trademark and as such the dispute pertains to intellectual property,” Justice Sambre stated.

The high court said the civil court has the jurisdiction to hear the suit filed by 'The Himalayan Club' against Singh.

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