PLDT denied preliminary injunction for 'pldt.com'
In Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co Inc v Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunications Inc (Civil Case Q99-38800), which appears to be the first domain name dispute to have reached a Philippine court, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court has denied Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company Inc's (PLDT) request for a preliminary injunction enjoining advocacy group Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunications Inc (the League) from using the domain name 'pldt.com'.
The League registered the domain name 'pldt.com' to host a website for political commentary. PLDT filed an action seeking (i) a preliminary injunction, and (ii) a permanent injunction enjoining the League and Gerardo Kaimo, one of its founders, from using the domain name. It also requested damages. PLDT asserted that the use of its trade name and trademark amounted to misappropriation and unfair competition under the Intellectual Property Code and Civil Code, as it was misleading and lured unsuspecting internet users away from PLDT's website at 'pldt.com.ph'.
The defendants argued that:
- PLDT had no legal capacity to sue and the court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter and/or nature of the action;
- they had registered the disputed domain name pursuant to a first come, first served policy;
- the 'pldt.com' website was essentially a parody website whose content should be protected; and
- they were not engaged in business and, therefore, could not be found guilty of unfairly competing with PLDT.
In an interlocutory ruling, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court denied PLDT's request for a preliminary injunction. The court stated that "at this point in time, [PLDT] ha[d] not been able to show its entitlement to the relief prayed for". It was stressed, however, that the court issued the order "without necessarily delving [into] the merits".
Contrary to published reports, the ruling did not terminate the action: the case is set for further proceedings, specifically a pre-trial conference. The court did not rule upon PLDT's main claim, which is for a permanent injunction and damages.
The parties have been given time to discuss the possibility of settling the case out of court. If they fail to settle, the case will proceed to trial on the merits.
Enrique T Manuel and Jose AV Evangelista III, SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, Manila
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