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The Evidentiary Value of Wikipedia Articles in a Legal Proceeding

In recent years, the use of Wikipedia as a source of information in legal proceedings has become a subject of debate and contention. This article aims to analyse the evidentiary value of Wikipedia articles in a legal context, using a specific case as an illustration.

The case in question involves a plaintiff seeking to restrain the defendants from releasing a Marathi film titled "Lai Bhaari," claiming trademark rights over the phrase. The plaintiff's reliance on a Wikipedia entry as evidence was rejected by the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay, which raised valid concerns about the credibility of Wikipedia as a source of information in legal proceedings.

The Case at Hand:
In the case before the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay, the plaintiff alleged that they were the prior user and registered trademark holder of the phrase "Lai Bhaari." The plaintiff asserted that they had launched a Marathi social network with the domain name "" in 2010, and they relied on a Wikipedia article about their website to support their claim.

The Court's Refusal to Rely on Wikipedia:
The central issue in this case was whether the Wikipedia article could be considered as credible evidence to establish the plaintiff's prior use of the trademark "Lai Bhaari." The Hon'ble High Court of Bombay, in its wisdom, decided not to accord evidentiary value to the Wikipedia article. This decision was grounded in several valid reasons that are worth exploring.

Lack of Authoritative Nature:
The Court noted that Wikipedia articles are hardly authoritative, regardless of their popularity or widespread use. Wikipedia is a collaborative, web-based, free-content encyclopedia-style service. It allows anyone with internet access to write and edit its articles, and contributors often remain anonymous. This inherent open-editing nature of Wikipedia makes it susceptible to inaccuracies, bias, and misinformation. Legal proceedings demand a high standard of accuracy and reliability in evidence, which Wikipedia may not consistently provide.

Potential for Self-Promotion:
Another concern raised by the Court was the potential for self-promotion on Wikipedia. As Wikipedia itself acknowledges, individuals or entities with vested interests can create or edit entries about themselves, their products, or services. This raises questions about the objectivity and impartiality of information presented in Wikipedia articles. In a legal context, where impartiality and truthfulness are paramount, relying on potentially self-serving information can be risky.

Reliability and Credibility:
In a legal proceeding, evidence is evaluated based on its reliability and credibility. Wikipedia's collaborative and open-editing nature means that it may not meet the rigorous standards required in a court of law. The Court rightly pointed out that Wikipedia articles can be edited by individuals with varying levels of expertise and may not undergo the same scrutiny and verification process as traditional sources of information.

The Concluding Note:
The case of the plaintiff seeking to restrain the release of the Marathi film "Lai Bhaari" highlights the challenges and limitations of relying on Wikipedia articles as evidence in legal proceedings. While Wikipedia is a valuable resource for general knowledge and research, its inherent shortcomings, such as lack of authoritative status, potential for self-promotion, and issues of reliability and credibility, make it a less-than-ideal source for establishing legal claims.

This case serves as a reminder to legal practitioners and litigants to exercise caution when considering Wikipedia as a source of evidence in legal disputes, and to seek more authoritative and reliable sources to substantiate their claims.

Case Law Discussed:
Case Title: Techlegal Solutions Pvt. Ltd Vs Genelia Ritesh Deshmukh,
Date of Judgement:03/07/2014
Case No.Notice of Motion (L) No. 1503 of 2014 in Suit (L) No. 629 of 2014
Neutral Citation No: (2014) 59 PTC 510
Name of Court: Bomb High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: G S Patel, H.J.

Information and discussion contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same should not be treated as substitute for expert advice as it is subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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