With the invention of World Wide Web, connectivity across the globe has turned the world into a global village. The age of print media is attenuating and social media platforms are quickly filing this gap. People are becoming more inclined towards scrolling on these platforms not only for their esthetic needs but also their needs as consumers. This is why modern companies, both small and multinational, are focusing on advertising their products and services through these platforms. The economic growth of companies and the rise in entrepreneurship is compelling evidence of such shift.
Marketing and advertising on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube has both free and paid features. One can simply make an account on these platforms and start advertising their products or services through their profiles, pages, groups or channels. But it is difficult to engage with a large number of people if there is limited exposure to such profile, page, group or channel. The paid feature allows you reach people with similar interests by showing them short advertisements while they are scrolling through the platform or watching a video. Another hack used by non-paying customers of these social media platforms is to mention a well-known company’s trademark in the description of their posts or use it as a hashtag along with a picture or video of their product or service. In this manner, they try to capture the traffic of people on these platforms and divert it to their own marketing posts rather than the original company’s page or profile. They try to “pass off” their product or service as the product of the company whose trademark they are using. The end result is to gain more customers using the repute and name of some well-known company and make profit.
In order to check for trademark infringement or any other illegality of content, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have the tools to inspect a post before it is posted through their platform, yet a plethora of posts somehow still gets approved for posting on a daily basis. Such posts not only infringe upon trademarks and logos but also violate the platform’s own ‘community standards’. Now these platforms do encourage their users to report such content, but most of the time it takes too long for a platform’s support team to respond while the pages, profiles, groups or channels in question already achieve their goal of reaching a large number of consumers and diluting a company’s trademark by using unfair means of competition. Moreover, if a page, profile, group or channel gets banned, it does not take long for the user to create a new page or profile and start the cycle again.
Lawsuits have been brought around the world, including in Europe, USA and even India, against social media platforms for enabling such offences. The courts have held Facebook, Instagram and other online platforms liable for the infringement of trademarks, copyrights and logos. The platforms have had to pay damages in large sums of money for contributory infringement and letting their space become a source of false advertisement. More recently, the courts have also hinted that these virtual platforms can be ordered to take down content on a global level, which was previously limited to the geo-blocking of content in a certain geographical locality only.
A similar lawsuit had been brought to the Intellectual Property (IP) Court of Lahore, Pakistan by Descon through their counsel JUSnREM. Descon is a multinational company of international repute spanning over 43 years. It has worked on various significant projects, both nationally and internationally, and its trademarks/service marks have been registered across the globe. The answer to why this case is unique as compared to other suits filed against Facebook across the world lies in the interim order passed by the honourable Sessions Court (IP) barring/restricting Facebook and YouTube from providing their platforms to enable the infringement of Descon’s trademark. This suit shall serve as precedent for the legal community and educate the masses with regard to online intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement.
It is high time to hold the tycoons of the virtual world accountable to the standards of law. Their trademark protection policies must be scrutinized. Social media platforms should also show cognizance and develop more refined tools to detect trademark infringements, blacklist IP addresses in violation of the law and take strict action against lawbreakers.
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