The Plaintiffs and the Respondents had entered into a joint venture to carry on their poker gaming business under ‘www.spartanpoker.com’ from Calcutta, even though the company was based in Maharashtra. This was done as the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957 legalizes poker and does not qualify it as gambling. Plaintiff No. 1, Mr. Rajat Agarwal made the application for the registration of domain name ‘www.spartanpoker.com’, while all trademark applications for marks including ‘Spartan’ were filed by Respondent No. 7. When disagreements arose between the parties, Rajat Agarwal was removed from the Board of Directors. The Respondents then incorporated a new company, ‘Spartan Online Pvt. Ltd.’ and launched a website under the name ‘www.thespartanpoker.com’. Rajat Agarwal then initiated trademark opposition proceedings to said trademark applications.
The Plaintiffs claim violation of their rights, as the domain name was registered by Rajat Agarwal. They contend that the Respondents had no right to start a new website that carried on similar business as compared to their initial joint venture, which they claim to be in breach of the agreement between the parties. Further, the Plaintiffs claim that they have a substantial stake in the Respondent No. 7 company, and the assets, profits, goodwill, trademarks, logo and website cannot be diverted to another entity. The use of ‘TheSpartanPoker’ was identical/deceptively similar to ‘Spartan Poker’, which was bound to create confusion in the minds of the public.
The Respondents claim that they had coined the term ‘Spartan’, as well as had made the applications for the trademarks. Further, it was contested that the Plaintiffs were never shareholders of the company, but were simply paid the remuneration for the services that they provided.
On the 25th of April 2017, Justice Soumen Sen found that the Calcutta High Court had the jurisdiction to try the matter even though the company was incorporated in Maharashtra. It was observed that the Respondents would not be inconvenienced if the matter was tried in this Court, as the website that hosted online poker was an interactive one, and had been made especially accessible within its jurisdiction.
In a separate judgment delivered on the 12th of May 2017, Justice Sen ruled for the Respondents in the present matter. The observations made were as follows:
“The nature of business as well as the emails exchanged between the parties prove that there existed a Partnership between the parties. It was additionally held that since the joint venture was formed between the Plaintiffs and the Respondents, the Respondent No. 7 could not use the mark ‘Spartan’ to the exclusion of the Plaintiffs and deny the benefits of earnings to the Plaintiffs by using said mark.”