MS Dhoni and Rhiti Sports win law dispute
Team India’s limited-overs captain MS Dhoni and Rhiti Sports Management Private Limited won an important legal battle as he managed to secure the domain name ‘www.msdhoni.com’ which was held by an individual from the United States of America after the decision came in favour of the Indian limited overs captain.
The complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Geneva, on August 19, 2016, stating that the mark ‘MS DHONI’ was a well-known and famous symbol throughout the world and that the use of the domain name ‘www.msdhoni.com’ by the individual in question amounted to trademark and personality rights infringement.
This would also cause confusion among the general public, as members of the public might be misled to believe that the domain name, as well as the content available on it was being made available by Mr. Dhoni or Rhiti Sports.
Dhoni and Rhiti Sports, who manage Dhoni’s public affairs, were represented by Rodney D. Ryder, cyber law expert and Managing Partner of Scriboard, a full-service law firm based in New Delhi.
The domain name in dispute was originally registered on October 31, 2005 and came into the ownership this person the since February 2014. The domain name did not resolve to any website, but had pay-per-click advertisements and was being offered for sale. Interestingly, subsequent to the filing of the domain name complaint, the owner wrote to Scriboard offering to sell the domain name for 1500 US Dollars.
In a press release issued by Mr. Ryder he mentioned that it was ‘imperative to secure this important and valuable digital asset’. He added, “the securing of the domain name is an important part of the overall brand strategy. There is a serious potential of misuse. This case, from the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Geneva, is an important global trademark precedent for the already famous and well-known brand, MS Dhoni.”
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There have been cases of cybersquatting related to the sports world in the past. One such dispute recently arose in relation to the domain name ‘fifa11.com’. The domain was owned by a South Korean, and football’s governing body, FIFA, filed a complaint with the WIPO and were able to secure the domain name.
It is not surprising that there are many unauthorised domain name registrations identical to personal names of Indian celebrities and politicians such as Virat Kohli, Rahul Gandhi, the Hon’ble President Pranab Mukherjee, just to name a few. These unauthorised domain names are a serious issue to the celebrities themselves and to the general public, as such unauthorised domain names can be involved in illegal and damaging activities such as phishing, cyber fraud, identity theft, etc.