When Will the Domain Wars Cease?

domainsAuthor: Erikas Saukalas, Associate Partner, Attorney-at-Law, Head of the International Relations Division at METIDA

Due to the vast domain popularity, a simple registration process, and its low costs, domains have become an easily accessible product giving raise to illegal sources of income. Hence, parallel with the increasing number of domain registrations worldwide and in Lithuania the number of disputes over domains is also growing.

Global companies actively defend their rights 

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which deals with disputes regarding generic top-level domains, such as .com, .net, .org, .biz, and others, as well as various national top-level domains (.es, .fr, .ie, .nl, etc.), over 27,000 cases have been analysed since 1999.

The most common types of violations are cybersquatting, brandjacking, typoscquatting, traffic diversions and others.

Most of the legal disputes arise precisely due to cybersquatting when trademarks belonging to other persons are registered as domains by an infringer who attempts to sell them to the real proprietors profitably. Alternatively, if the trademark is well-known, the infringer may establish a website with his/her registered domain and sell counterfeit goods.

Over the last 12 months companies, such as Swarovski, Armani, Burberry, Cartier and Dior, have taken actions against the Internet pirates. This year, Gucci won 6 cases and took over more than 100 domains, such as Cheapguccionsale.com and Guccishoponline.org. Since 2010 Austrian luxury trademark Swarovski has initiated and won 32 cases. Apple has also been active and recently has won a case regarding Iphone5.com domain.

Lithuanian case law favours trademark proprietors 

In Lithuania, disputes over domains are solved only in courts. Lithuanian courts have the right to analyse cases not only related to domain .lt., but also to all other domains, such as  .com and .eu, if they are primarily aimed at customers in Lithuania when giving information about services or identifying a person. Lithuanian cace law has evolved in favour of trademark proprietors, therefore, the offenders receiving complaints and claims regarding the illegal domain registration usually transfer the domains to the rightful proprietors without any payment or only for a nominal fee.

As for the well known cases in Lithuania, the withdrawal of illegal registration of domains Neregeta.lt, Pienožvaigždės.lt and Burgerking.lt is worth mentioning.

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