The Delhi High Court has ruled that mere hosting of a webpage on Facebook would not confer jurisdiction in the State where such page is viewed.
"...it is clear that merely hosting a web page on Facebook would not be sufficient to confer jurisdiction on a Court where the defendant does not carry on business. Merely because Facebook is an interactive site and permits the users to offer comments or indicate whether they “like what they see” on the site, would not be sufficient to provide a cause of action for passing off in a jurisdiction where the defendant does not enter into any commercial transaction," Justice Vibhu Bakhru explained.
The Court was hearing an Application filed by 'News Nation Gujarat', praying that the passing off suit filed against it by 'News Nation Networks Private Limited' be dismissed as it does not disclose a "clear right to sue". It had further contended that the Court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
While the mark 'News Nation' is not a registered trademark, the Plaintiff had filed a suit for passing off, alleging that the Applicant's trade name 'News Nation Gujarat' was "causing grave confusion and deception among the public at large and therefore, amounts to passing off, unfair competition and unfair trade practice". They had now defended their suit inter alia placing reliance on the Facebook page of the Applicants.
During the hearing, the Court noted that the question whether a universal website which can be viewed all over the world confers jurisdiction in the state where it is viewed, has been a subject matter of much debate.
It then observed, "Maintenance of the Facebook page on a social media site can at best be representative of the defendants issuing an advertisement of their product i.e. newspaper. Although, it is stated that www.facebook.com is an interactive site, there is no allegation that any commercial transaction is carried out between users and the defendants through www.facebook.com. The allegation is merely that the users of www.facebook.com can read an article or news published and can post their comments."
Thereafter, relying on several precedents, the Court held that it did not have jurisdiction to entertain the plaint and listed the matter on 12 February for further proceedings.