GINTASSET Intellectual Property Law Firm - Registering domain names in Viet Nam GINTASSET

Registering domain names in Viet Nam

Many economic experts view the domain name as the electronic trademark of the enterprise, but in fact, a trademark is a trade indicator for customers to find desired products, services or enterprises in the market, whilst a domain name is an electronic indicator for customers to find products, services or enterprises on the Internet. With e-commerce developing at a very fast rate, there are more and more enterprises establishing their own domain names and websites to promote their operations. These domain names must be registered at State authorities to be validated. However, the registration is not always a smooth process.

Domain name registration is experiencing problems similar to the ones affecting trademarks, such as prior-registration. An example is of a US company whose trademark has been registered in the US, but may face obstacles in registering the same trademark in Viet Nam because somebody beat them to it and registered this US trademark in Viet Nam. The reason for this situation is that there is no link between the US Trademark Office and their counterpart in Viet Nam.

With respect to domain name, everybody knows that companies may or .net,… domains and .vn or .us domains. At the moment, .com or .net which are named as "Generic Top Level Domain (GTTD)", are under the global management of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Disputes over gTTDs are therefore settled by a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy approved by INCANN. However,.vn or .us domains are named as country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD);, are Generic Second level domain names (GSLD), and they all are under the management of the Internet Network Information Centre of each country. In Viet Nam, ccTLD is .vn (, and they are governed by the Viet Nam Internet Network Information Centre (VNNIC).

The matter of domain name disputes in Viet Nam lies in the lack of laws on domain name protection and dispute resolution. At the moment, registration and protection for domain names are mainly regulated under Decision No 92/2003/QD – BBCVT of the Ministry of Posts and Telematics. This decision provides principles for a domain name regime in Viet Nam only and there is a lack of detailed laws on domain name protection, especially regulations linking domain name and trademark, geographic indications. For example, the decision states that "Registration of domain names related to geographical indications... should be avoided. In case of necessity, legitimate and clear proof should be submitted."

This regulation seems too loose to prevent impostors registering trademarks under their own names, with the geographic indicators of other companies. If you access the VNNIC Website at this time, you can find that some domain names are under the name of persons without any relation with the trademarks owners. Some suspected domain name applications are pending at the Viet Nam Internet Network Information Centre (VNNIC). If the trademarks are not well-known, trademark owner may miss opportunities to claim their Intellectual Property rights on these domain names and they will have to spend money and effort to recover them in the future. There is no obligation to VNNIC to know every trademark or registered trademark in Viet Nam, which means some suspected domain names might escape the opposition and go through registration without obstacles.

(VNS – 6 July, 2005)
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