Vietnam Government Tightens Domain Name Protection

vietnam_government_tightens_domain_name_protectionThe Vietnamese Government, through the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has issued a Circular (No: 37/2011/TT-BKHCN) which provides detailed guidance for the implementation of Decree No 97/2010/ND-CP on sanctions for administrative violations of industrial property rights. The Circular came in to effect on 11 February 2012.

Among other significant changes, the Circular introduces a detailed procedure for handling domain name disputes.

It stipulates that use and/or registration of a domain name which is identical with, or confusingly similar to, protected trade names or marks of others, or geographical indications, without having the right to use the same, with the intent of making a profit or preventing the genuine owner from using and/or registering the said mark and/or corporate name or geographical indication as a domain name, can be considered as unfair competition and subject to administrative sanctions.

The Circular lays down that a claimant of a domain name should be the registered owner of the mark/ trade name / geographical indication that is continuously and widely used in Vietnam.

Further, extensive and continuous use of a mark locally in Vietnam has been made a criterion for seeking protection under this new provision. The Circular lays down provisions to cut down on red tape, and makes it easier to initiate actions involving infringements and unfair competition. The Circular specifies acts which are deemed unfair, sanctioning forms and levels, remedies, complaint procedures, mechanism for handling complaints and guidelines for enforcement procedures. One of the important remedies provided in the Circular is forcible confiscation of infringing domain names if the party found guilty of infringement fails to voluntarily comply within one year of the Order to this effect, by the relevant administrative body.