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Domain Name Disputes in Russia

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An overview of recent developments in Russian intellectual property law, as it relates to domain name registrations in Russia

An overview of recent developments in Russian intellectual property law, as it relates to domain name registrations in Russia

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  • 1. Domain  name  disputes  in  RussiaBriefing  note14  March  2013New  Court  for  Intellectual  Property  RightsRussia’s  new  Court  for  Intellectual  Property  Rights  started  operating  recently  and  it  marked  a  good  occasion  on  which  to  review  the  state  of  Russian  intellectual  property  law  as  it  relates  to  domain  names.  While  legislation  establishing  the  court  was  passed  in  2011,  judges  were  not  appointed  and  the  court  did  not  start  functioning  until  February  2013,  so  it  is  quite  new.  It  is  a  specialized  court  within  the  system  of  Arbitral  courts,  located  in  Moscow,  which  hears  disputes  related  to  intellectual  property  regardless  of  the  nature  of  the  legal  parties  to  the  dispute.  In  addition  to  being  the  court  of  first  instance  in  such  matters,  it  functions  as  a  cassation  court.The  Russian  land  grabThe  “land  grab”  over  international  top-­‐level  domain  (TLD)  names  has  often  allowed  opportunistic  trademark  infringers  to  pre-­‐empt  legitimate  brand  owners.Russia  is  no  exception,  and  one  of  the  prime  issues  faced  by  foreign  companies  and  brands  entering  the  Russian  market  —  whether  they  are  primarily  online  or  offline  players  —  is  securing  the  rights  over  their  domain  names  in  the  Russian  TLDs.High-­‐profile  domain  name  disputes  in  Russia  have  involved  leading  international  companies  such  as  Nike,  Century  21,  Burger  King,  Forbes,  Kodak,  Volkswagen  and  many  more.  All  were  decided  in  favour  of  the  foreign  entity  although  the  process  and  length  of  the  dispute  procedures  has  varied  widely,  with  the  earlier  cases  taking  much  longer  to  decide.  As  the  precedents  accumulate,  enforcing  rights  over  Russian  domain  names  is  becoming  a  much  more  predictable  and  economical  process  for  foreign  companies.Russian  Top-­‐Level  DomainsThere  are  actually  three  Russia-­‐specific  TLDs,  namely:• .ru  (“Russia”)• .su  (“Soviet  Union”)• .рф  (“Russian  Federation”  in  Cyrillic  script)There  is  also  the  “.com.ru”  domain  administered  by  one  of  the  Russian  domain  registrars,  as  well  as  “.ru.com”.  Some  foreign  companies  which  find  themselves  shut  out  from  their  rightful  .ru  TLD  temporarily,  have  opted  to  establish  their  Russian  websites  on  these  less-­‐than-­‐ideal  alternatives  (notably  PizzaExpress).
  • 2. Legal  environmentThere  is  no  Russian  law  specifically  covering  rights  to  Internet  domain  names.  Rather,  they  are  covered  under  the  existing  laws  related  to  intellectual  property  and,  in  particular,  trademarks.  The  main  law  regulating  this  sphere  is  Part  4  of  the  Civil  Code  of  the  Russian  Federation,  which  came  into  force  on  1  January  2008  (latest  amendment  -­‐  8  December  2011).The  Kodak  case  of  2001  was  a  landmark  in  this  field  (the  core  of  the  case  being  the  use  of  a  trademark  in  a  domain  name).  The  court  decided  the  case  solely  on  the  basis  of  international  law  (namely.  the  Paris  Convention,  of  which  Russia  has  been  a  party  since  1965).  The  federal  law  on  trademarks  that  existed  at  that  time  did  not  provide  protection  against  the  use  of  a  trademark  in  a  domain  name.  Still,  the  court  prohibited  the  usage  of  the  domain  name  in  question.Since  then,  the  Russian  courts  have  acquired  substantial  experience  in  resolving  intellectual  property  disputes  related  to  domain  names.  There  are  guidelines  of  the  highest  courts  on  such  matters  which  are  obligatory  for  lower  courts  to  follow  (even  though  —  officially  —  case  law  does  not  exist  in  Russia,  being  a  civil  law  country).Court  proceedingsThe  first  thing  to  ensure  is  that  you  have  registered  your  trademarks  in  Russia,  as  these  documents  must  be  submitted  to  the  court  in  order  to  commence  any  proceedings.Under  the  old  system,  the  choice  of  court  for  intellectual  property  disputes  in  Russia  generally  depended  on  the  nature  of  the  violator,  as  opposed  to  the  nature  of  the  violation).• The  State  Arbitral  (arbitration)  court  system  hears  commercial  cases  involving  legal   entities,  registered  private  entrepreneurs,  and  state  enterprises,  whereas• The  common  (general)  court  system  hears  civil  disputes  between  natural  persons  who  are   not  registered  as  entrepreneurs,  and  also  hears  all  criminal  cases.For  the  purposes  of  foreign  legal  entities  involved  in  domain  name  disputes  in  Russia,  the  arbitration  court  is  the  proper  choice  except  in  the  case  of  “substantial  damage”,  which  can  be  considered  a  felony  and  would  be  heard  by  the  general  court.While  the  law  provides  that  administrative  rulings  can  be  made  solely  on  the  basis  of  written  submissions,  domain  name  disputes  do  not  fall  under  such  criteria.There  is  also  the  possibility  that  the  arbitration  court  would  award  a  preliminary  injunction  prior  to  filing  and  hearing  the  court  case,  although  this  is  unlikely  to  happen  in  the  case  of  domain  name  disputes.  The  cases  where  courts  have  awarded  preliminary  injunctions  in  intellectual  property  disputes  are  highly  limited.
  • 3. Initiating  a  claim  via  the  arbitration  court  is  fairly  straightforward,  and  the  procedural  rules  dictate  that  cases  must  be  decided  within  3  months  (although  they  are  usually  extended  to  4  months).  Delaying  tactics  are  often  employed  by  defendants.  However,  as  a  rule,  it  is  quite  difficult  to  extend  the  4-­‐month  period  under  the  arbitration  court  system  and  the  majority  of  cases  are  decided  within  this  time  limit.  The  only  case  where  it  can  be  extended  is  when  an  independent  expert  is  involved  (usually  this  occurs  when  trademarks  need  to  be  analyzed  as  to  similarity  with  the  original,  and  would  not  include  domain  name  disputes).  When  experts  are  involved,  the  period  can  be  extended  considerably  (8-­‐24  months).For  foreign  entities,  in  addition  to  the  statement  of  claim,  they  must  submit  a  power  of  attorney  authorizing  a  local  person  to  represent  them.  This  representative  need  not  be  a  lawyer  -­‐-­‐  a  representative  of  a  legal  person  can  be  an  advocate  or  any  other  person,  providing  legal  assistance  (per  article  59  of  the  Arbitral  Procedure  Code).  Additionally,  certified  copies  of  incorporation  documents  and  registration  certificates  for  trademarks  and/or  patents  are  required  before  initiating  a  proceeding.  All  documents  must  be  translated  into  Russian  by  a  certified  Russian  translator.Thus,  the  procedures  for  settling  domain  name  disputes  in  Russia  are  becoming  increasingly  transparent  and  predictable,  and  help  to  support  the  overall  growth  and  international  appeal  of  Russian  e-­‐commerce.For  more  informationInterstice  Consulting  is  fully  equipped  to  register,  administer  and  enforce  domain  name  rights  in  Russia.  To  discuss  your  specific  case  with  our  experts,  please  contact  us:  Interstice  Consulting  LLCKrasnoproletarskaya  ulitsa  31/1Building  5,  Office  8Moscow  127030Russian  FederationTel:  +7  495  795  53  22Email:  moscow@intersticeconsulting.com  

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