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The evolution of the domain industry continues

On June 16, the RIF.Online platform hosted the roundtable discussion, “Domain names and intellectual property: Domain disputes,” prepared by the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ and IP CLUB and moderated by Coordination Center Director Andrei Vorobyev and Marina Rozhkova, the IP CLUB President, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law under the Russian Federation Government.

The participants in the discussion, including representatives of accredited registries, legal entities, scientific institutions and other intellectual property organizations, discussed the legal practice on domain disputes and prospects for establishing an UDRP Arbitrage Center in Russia, as well as protecting trademark owners on the internet and methods to evaluate domain names as intangible assets.

In his opening remarks, Andrei Vorobyev noted that we were living in a time of change, when the number of domain disputes was growing. Domains are more often regarded as intangible assets, and hence their value is growing. This is why it is becoming important to develop ways to evaluate their value and use domains as assets.

Three main reports in the discussion were dedicated to various aspects of domain dispute. Pavel Patrikeyev (Reg.ru) talked about the procedure of domain disputes his company has to face as a registry and the problems of investigating them. He noted that there were systematic problems all registries had to face during hearings in courts, like the mechanical consideration for several kinds of disputes, such as blocking of websites or protection of interests of an indefinite range of individuals, as well as unlawful demands from various authorities to provide personal data of website administrators. It is necessary to adapt laws to the digital age and form a clear understanding by lawmakers of the specifics of affairs in our industry, Pavel Patrikeyev noted. He also said the positive trends included that the number of amicable agreements between registrar clients and copyright holders was growing. The registries are getting involved in the agreement process more often, and this is good practice and an example of the market’s self-organization.

Anton Sergo (Internet and Law) spoke about the trends and main problems in domain disputes in Russia. He noted that Russia had been hearing domain disputes for 20 years, and that over these years the parties were facing the same problems. At the same time, the trademark holders are in a better situation because judges tend to support them over domain name registrants. In many cases, opposite approaches are used during the court hearings. It is evident that a systematic legal approach to the industry is needed.

At the beginning of this year, the methodology to evaluate the market value of second-level domain names in .RU and .РФ on the secondary domain name market was published on the Coordination Center’s website. It was developed by Euroexpert under Coordination Center direction. It took more than two years to finish the methodology. Yekaterina Sinogeikina (Euroexpert) spoke about this effort, as well as its principles and models.

The event continued with a discussion on various aspects of domain disputes. Alina Akinshina (Online Patents) talked about how the “little applicant” felt in domain disputes, such as a domain name registrant, a small registrar, or a small business representative. It is difficult for them to compete with large companies, first of all, in material terms. Alina Akinshina suggested wider application of appeals in the arbitration court: this would significantly reduce costs for both the plaintiff and the defendant. She also noted the importance of the first methodology to evaluate the market value of domain names. Denis Kirichenko (RU-CENTER) noted that today a lawsuit from a trademark owner against a domain registrant was the most frequent dispute, and in 70 percent of cases the copyright holder won. He also thanked the Coordination Center for actively addressing the sphere of domain disputes.

Sergei Kopylov (Coordination Center) discussed the center’s current work and the legal aspects of domain disputes that required further development. Roman Lukyanov (Semenov & Pevzner) noted that the evolution of legal practice regarding domain disputes was not yet complete, and the uncertainty of domains’ legal status was one of the main problems. Olga Tereshchenko (RSAIP) spoke about the conflict between the legal protection of personal brands using celebrities as an example.

In conclusion, Andrei Vorobyev stressed that there was still interest in domain names. “Skeptics say that the domain name system is an anachronism, and domains are becoming less attractive and are not regarded as a means of individualization anymore. Our discussion showed that this is not true and the public is still interested in domain names. It is getting more important to evaluate the cost of a domain; issues of intellectual property protection are becoming more closely connected with domain names. The evolution continues, because the domain space is a living developing organism,” Andrei Vorobyev said. He also noted that the fact that the state was now among the Coordination Center’s shareholders stressed the importance of the domain name market, which would be useful for the entire industry. In particular, it will help to quickly submit amendments to legislative acts.

The full video of the roundtable discussion is available at: https://youtu.be/qONVVLu-WMk

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