Domain name disputes

The legal regulation of domain names in Uzbekistan is based on the Rules of registration and use of domain names in domain zone "UZ", approved in accordance with Order No. 155 of General Director of the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Informatization dated May 26, 2008. The Agency of Communications and Informatization no longer exists, however, the rules approved back then remain unchanged.

Currently, the administrator of the UZ - domain zone is UZINFOCOM company, which is part of the structure of the Ministry for the Development of Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Uzbekistan. UZINFOCOM has been a single integrator of the UZ domain zone since the conclusion of the ccTLD (Country code top-level domain) sponsorship agreement with the ICANN Corporation (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).

Uzbekistan has an open database of domain names registered in the UZ domain zone. Currently there are more than 100,000 active domains. Unfortunately, many of the existing domains repeat well-known global brands. The owners of such domains are often residents of Uzbekistan who have nothing to do with the right holders of world brands. Attackers create websites using trademarks of companies that have earned a high reputation in the market.

Cybersquatting is the registration of domain names, containing a trademark, which belongs to another person, for the purpose of their further куsale or unfair use.

Domain disputes arising in «UZ» domain zone are resolved in accordance with the Rules of Registration and Use of domain names in domain zone «UZ», as well as other laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Administrative procedures adopted by WIPO and ICANN are applied to international domains (.com, .net, etc.).

Registration of national domains, including those similar or identical to well-known brands, is carried out by local registrar on the basis of a simple contract for services, while the registrar does not conduct preliminary check of domain names for violation of IP rights.

It raises a number of legal issues, when right-holder faces the use of a domain with a similar name registered by third party.

Does the domain owner have exclusive right to use?

The legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan does not consider domain name as an object of exclusive right. Registration of domain name grants the owner the right to use the domain name, to dispose of the content of the web-site, where the domain is applied, as well as to transfer the domain name to third parties.

Domain names are not protected as such by exclusive rights.

An exclusive right is the right to use IP object and dispose of it within the limits established by law. The exclusive right arises from the moment of the state registration of the property. The right-holder has the right, at his own choice, to allow other persons to use the object or prohibit its use.

The absence of exclusive rights to the domain name limits the legal opportunities of the domain owner. For example, the domain owner is not entitled to make a claim on the facts of using trademarks with a similar name. For this reason, the method of protecting domain name can be practical by registering particular name as a trademark.

Consequences of domain registration similar with trademarks

Unlike domain names, trademark owners enjoy exclusive rights. Moreover, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Trademarks, Service Marks and Appellations of Origin of goods" states that a trademark can be used in a domain name (part 2 of Article 27 of the Law). Thus, unauthorized use of someone else's trademark in a domain name is considered as a violation of exclusive trademark rights.

The judicial practice on domain disputes shows that domain names can be deactivated in cases when the domain name repeats the word/name registered as a trademark. For example, in a court case considered by a civil court, the judge's opinion regarding the deactivation of the domain was related to exclusive right of trademark owner to use and dispose of the trademark (the decision of the judge of the Uchtepa Interdistrict Court for Civil Cases of Tashkent dated 06/24/2021).

It should be emphasized that the exclusive right to a trademark applies in respect to only those goods and/or services registered for the trademark. Domain name that is similar with registered trademark, may not violate trademark rights. For that, the content of the website, for which the domain is used, shall promote / advertise goods or services that are not homogeneous with the goods or services registered for the trademark.  The so-called "monopoly" trademark right serves to provide protection from other similar products, whereas domain names operating in different market segment are not subject to blocking.