The Chennai-based saree retail Brand Nalli has issued a cease and desist notice to the leading e-commerce website Snapdeal for illegal use of its brand name, trademark and images on its website.
Nalli, a brand that has become synonymous with the traditional silk or Kanchipuram sarees has become a trusted household name when it comes to sarees. It was alleged by Nalli that Snapdeal sought to unjustly cash in on the goodwill of the brand by making people believe that original Nalli silk sarees were available on its website for sale. Some of the products were even being sold at a discounted price when in fact the online sale of Nalli sarees is only done through its own official website and no other third party website.
On June 11, it was discovered by the brand while conducting a search on Google that Snapdeal had illegally used their registered trademark along with photographs from their website in their clothing segment for the online sale of silk sarees. A cease and desist notice was immediately sent to Snapdeal to stop the use of the Nalli trademark in its searches and remove all the images of Nalli’s products from the website.
Nalli Chinnasami Chetty is the registered owner of the Nalli trademark ‘Nalli’ in Classes 24 and 25 (which include fabrics, blankets, textile, footwear and headgear) and Classes 14 and 9 (which include precious metal ware, jewelry computers, software, electronic instruments and scientific appliances).
Snapdeal, complying with the notice, subsequently removed all the photos belonging to Nalli from its website.
Interestingly, earlier this year, another Mumbai-based saree distributor, Shree Meena Creations, filed a lawsuit in the Bombay High Court against e-commerce giants Flipkart, Amazon and Ebay and its sellers for selling replicas of its branded and copyrighted sarees on their websites.
These incidents are just the tip of the ice berg where the online marketplaces are being increasingly held liable for the acts of their sellers. From sale of counterfeit goods to committing fraud by delivering a bar of soap or stones instead of a smartphone, the debate still continues as to how far the e-commerce website is liable for the acts of its sellers.
The law in India continues to be hazy in this regard. These online marketplaces or aggregators are nothing but intermediaries renting online space for the buyers and sellers to connect and engage in commercial transactions. A large number of sellers ensures competition and lower prices for the customer.
But when the seller deceives the customer, who should be held responsible? In spite of setting up a mechanism to prevent such activities in the form of strict policies for the sellers, some of the sellers still flout the rules and commit unlawful acts. But at the end of the day, no owner of the marketplace can give a complete guarantee of the authenticity of his sellers. In such a scenario is it fair to blame the E-commerce website?
On one hand, these online marketplaces being intermediaries are protected by Section 79 of the Information Technology Act as long as they don’t knowingly allow the misuse of their platform by their sellers, and immediately act on any complaint provided by any aggrieved party.
But on the other, these intermediaries themselves are the only link between the buyers and the sellers. The buyer chooses to shop at e-commerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. trusting the name of the brand and expecting a certain quality of service. When counterfeit goods are sold on the website by some seller, the website too benefits from the profit earned by the seller. How then, can they be given immunity from the liability?
The extent of liability that can be imposed on the marketplaces is still an issue that hasn’t been addressed in its entirety.
The post has been contributed by Heema .