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by Satrajit Sen

Consim Info, which owns matrimony portal BharatMatrimony.com, recently filed a trademark infringement case against the internet search company Google and three other matrimony portals Jeevansathi.com, Shaadi.com and SimplyMarry.com in the Madras High Court. The court while hearing the case ex parte, gave an interim injunction to Consim. In the light of this case, AlooTechie tried to talk with some experts and see how they view the development.
According to Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO, Consim Info, there are two reasons why the group has sued Google, and competitors Shaadi.com, Jeevansathi.com and SimplyMarry.com. “Firstly, we filed the case seeking prevention of competitive advertising on Google. People searching for our trademarks know what they are searching for, and Google is the entry point for our sites. And hence the users should not be shown ads of other similar websites. Secondly, we have asked Google to stop allowing our competitors using our trademarked keywords as headings. For example, if someone searches for ‘Tamil Bride’, which is a generic keyword, competitors use our trademarks (Tamil Matrimony) as headings in Google AdWords, which linkback to their websites,” Janakiraman told AlooTechie.

Following the Consim Vs Google case, AlooTechie tried to explore if the practice of showing competitors’ ads when one is searching for a brand name on Google, is happening only in the online matrimony space or in other verticals as well and found that there are similar cases happening with even offline brands such as Adidas, Dell and Max New York Life. For instance, a search for Adidas, Puma or Reebok on Google shows advertisements from Nike, while a search for LIC shows up ads from Max New York Life and Aegon Religare. Similarly, a search for HP leads us to ads from Dell and a search for Dell shows ads from Samsung. Looking into the online real estate space, we found that a search for 99acres shows ads from MagicBricks.

Clearly, this appears to be a common problem across the verticals and categories and is not only confined to the online matrimony space or even online space. Hence, we caught up with Mahesh Murthy, founder and CEO, Pinstorm, to know more about the practice of using a competitor’s registered trademark to advertise one’s products and services online.

According to Murthy, Google already has a rule in place which says that if a company can show the proof of its registered trademarks to Google, no one else would be allowed to advertise using these keywords. “For example, words like Jet and Microsoft are registered keywords for Jet Airways and Microsoft Corporation and Google doesn’t allow any other advertisements around the same search keyword. Now, in India, if a company fails to show the proof of its registered keywords, Google allows competitors’ ads to appear on search results, but restricts usage of the keywords in the copy of the ads,” said Murthy.

Speaking on whether BharatMatrimony is right in asking Google to stop competitors from using its keywords as ad headlines, Murthy said, “As claimed by Consim, ‘TamilMatrimony’ (without a space) is a registered keyword of the group. So, it appears that the group owns a combination of two generic words Tamil and Matrimony. Now, the competitors are using Tamil Matrimony as two separate generic keywords in their ad copies and hence BharatMatrimony can’t claim that these two separate generic terms are their registered keywords,” he added.

Agreeing with Mahesh Murthy, Pavan Duggal, advocate, Supreme Court of India, said that the usage of two generic terms separately in the search ads cannot be considered as a registered trademark infringement as BharatMatrimony just owns a joined version of the two generic terms. According to Duggal, depending on usage patterns, even a generic word can be registered as a keyword and once the trademark is registered the party has the legitimacy to ask search engines to protect the usage of that particular keyword by competitive properties in search results.

Describing the complaints made by BharatMatrimony as meaningless, Mahesh Murthy said that the group itself can be held guilty for a similar practice. “Though the Madras High Court has given an interim injunction, this is a wrong judgement and the decision should be challenged or else Jet Airways will tomorrow say that ‘Airways’ is their registered keyword and they want other airlines to stop advertising around that keyword,” said Murthy. He further suggested Google to stop using different policies in different countries and to make a standard keyword advertising policy across the world.

Commenting on the Consim Info Vs Google case, Pavan Duggal, a cyber law expert, further said that the existing provisions of Indian cyber laws are being tested by the new challenges of this growing medium. “However, in this case where there is an Indian dispute, between Indian parties and in an Indian court, the enforceability of the law in favour of BharatMatrimony is something which is expected,” said Duggal.

When asked why Consim focused its trademark infringement case on the group’s matrimonial competitors, Janakiraman said that though the problem persists across categories and verticals, they have decided to go for BharatMatrimony as it is the company’s premiere and well-known brand. He further said that the company had earlier contacted Google on the same but did not get a good response and hence had to move to court.

Responding to the case filed by Consim Info, a Google India spokesperson has said, “We have received the court papers and are in the process of reviewing those. We believe that our policies are in compliance with the mandate of trademark law and we will defend our position on that basis. We also believe that consumers are smart and are not confused when they see a variety of ads displayed in response to their search queries. We will not be able to go into further details of the case, since the matter is sub judice.”

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by Mayank Tewari

The anonymity of the Internet often lures one into dropping one’s guard, the consequences of which can be sordid. Pictures with a former lover suddenly start sprouting weeks before one’s engagement, and a prospective employer conducts a background check only to come across unsavoury language posted on a blog when one was in college. Recently, the perils were illustrated in the Anoushka Shankar blackmailing episode.

However, help is at hand. One’s online — and offline — past can be cleaned up, but at a price. “It costs between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh a month to manage the online presence of a celebrity or a corporate honcho,” said Mahesh Murthy, founder and CEO, Pinstorm, an online advertising and ‘search engine optimisation’ company.

Experts at Murthy’s firm delete unwanted instances of one’s online activities. The method can be considered the reverse of hacking, where a person of ill intent can trail one online and dig out information that can hurt.

Murthy said an increasing number of corporate big shots and other individuals affected by crimes like cyber stalking are relying on the services of consultants like him. “Top business figures, politicians and people in public life use our services to manage their branding online… Recently, a woman belonging to a conservative family approached our firm to delete from the Web pictures of her kissing a female celebrity on the lip.”

Managing one’s online presence is done through ‘search engine optimisation’. “It means,” said Arpit Bhargava, a Pune-based cyber image consultant, “doctoring a search engine like Google in such a way that positive results show up in preference to links that may cause embarrassment to the client.”

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by Sharmila Ganesan-Ram

On the first Friday of every month, after the sun sets, newcomers at a Santa Cruz marketing firm start sweating. It’s the witching hour that
colleagues have warned them about when seniors and bosses suddenly start behaving like unpaid judges on a reality show. They make unreasonable demands that the novices have no choice but to fulfil. So, these cornered techies will obediently launch into embarrassing confessions, stammer through an item song or do a pole dance with a co-worker for a jittery pole. Thankfully, this performance is not meant for evaluation.

This good-humoured official ragging session called the All Hands Day is only “an ice-breaker to welcome all the new joinees and to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and rewards,” says Leena Kapoor, HR head of digital marketing firm Pinstorm. Like All Hands Day, many human resource professionals, perhaps in a bid to be perceived as human, are coming up with wacky ways of injecting cheer into the workplace. So apart from mailing pay-cut letters that say “warm regards” at the end and pasting proverbs in the elevator, they are also encouraging employees to visit the gym, watch movies, swig wine, play CounterStrike, doze off, and wear shorts.

Robert Khongwir, HR head of online gaming portal Zapak, who sometimes moves around the office with a baseball bat (“to ensure discipline”), cites the example of Rainy Day. On this day, everyone is asked to come to work in skirts, slippers and shorts and enjoy karaoke sessions, gaming competitions and shake a cocktail or two. “We recently booked first day-first show tickets to Kaminey for all our employees in the nearby cinema. They could watch and come back to work,” says Khongwir, who is clear that there is a “fine line between chaos and discipline”.

At Trine, a game development studio in Malad, this line is called LAN. After work, exhausted game developers vent their frustration against the seniors by forming teams and playing LAN games like CounterStrike. It’s an informal ritual called the LAN party. “We don’t wear shoes inside the air-conditioned studio, which is perhaps why we are cool-headed,” says Somil Gupta, managing director of the 24-hour studio where practically everyone lives on Red Bull. While the casual culture of advertising firms lends itself more easily to these workaday quirks, IT companies too are experimenting. A leading US-headquartered IT firm penalises its employees for being overly formal. “Every time an employee says `Yes, sir’ or stands up when a senior arrives, he has to put ten rupees in a box,” says Presenjit Kumar of Great Place To Work Institute. Interestingly, the senior has to shell out too “so that they discourage the act”, Kumar smiles.

Teams are now built not just by climbing mountains in the outskirts of the city but by sharing clothes, cooking without fire and eating rasgullas. Kolkata’s software firm Acclaris, has specially appointed `fun rangers’ who organised a rasgulla-eating contest that found mention in The New York Times. American company Gallup, famous for their polls, encourages employees to join a gym by reimbursing 50 per cent of the fee up to Rs 1089. The Bangalore office resembled a school on Children’s Day, with employees showing up in school uniform and participating in fun games like Pandemonium.

When Future Capital Holding decided to hold a Twins Day on which two co-workers had to dress alike, the office saw impersonations of Lola Kutty and Quick Gun Murugun. “Everybody was wondering whether Pantaloons had a mega buy-one-get-one-free sale on,” laughs Ophealia Deroze, head, human capital management. Real-life siblings, too, are sometimes invited to the office (on Family Day). “The venue turns out to be a funfair of sorts, complete with food counters, play sculptures, fortune-tellers and stalls,” says Bhaskar Das, vice-president, human resources, Cognizant, which also holds events like Rags to Riches where staff has to fashion clothes from junk.

Humour is a useful HR weapon, especially to lampoon the boss. Intel, on its internal blogspace called Planet Blue, asks employees to give witty captions to pictures of Intel employees in unlikely locales. Pinstorm plays pranks on its staff by asking them to conceptualise a complete online advertising campaign which requires them to strategise and create ads for products like bananas or sanitary napkins. “We give them a week to create a pitch with all the relevant info and then have a fictitious brainstorming session to which the entire company is invited. The news of the campaign being non-existent is broken to them there,” says Kapoor.

Sometimes, though, these clever HR tricks can lead to embarrassing situations. One leading newspaper organisation in Mumbai offers a `bonding allowance’-a sum of Rs 2,000 per month to two employees who choose to share a flat in the city. To claim the allowance, two female journalists approached a notary outside the Bombay High Court to ask him to draw up papers that said that the two girls were in a flat share at Andheri. The notary, who had never heard of a bonding allowance, coolly asked, “Are you taking advantage of the scrapping of Section 377?”