Internet in Vietnam has been established and developed rapidly since 1997. Since then, Vietnam has always been considered as one of the countries which has the highest increasing rate of annual Internet users. According to a statistic of the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Information and Communications by the end of 2015, the proportion of Internet users in Vietnam reached 52% of the population. However, the rapid development of the Internet infrastructure in Vietnam is not sync with the perfection of the legislation, especially in the field of handling domain name dispute in Vietnam.
According to the Law on Intellectual Property, domain name dispute in Vietnam can be resolved through administrative proceedings. This measure is generally thought to be the fastest and most cost-effective way for resolving domain name disputes. The responsibility for handling domain name dispute in Vietnam belongs to both Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) and the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST). However, due to lack of official legal documents stipulating responsibilities of each agency as well as coordination mechanism, it sometimes comes to the situation that both Ministries do not find common voice. This led to disagreements in handling violations and failure to protect legitimate rights and interests of IPR holders.
In order to ensure the consistency of the mechanism and enhance the management of Internet resources, as well as meet social needs, the MIC has coordinated with the MOST and issued the Joint Circular No. 14/2016/TTLT-BTTTT-BKHCN dated June 08, 2016 guiding procedures for changing and revoking domain names infringing intellectual property rights. Through the framework of Circular No. 14, lawful owner of IPRs or their authorized IP agents would have rights to complain competent authorities in Vietnam to handle domain name “.vn” infringing IPRs when it meets all following criteria:
• Being identical or confusingly similar to a protected IP asset and the content on the site under the domain name infringes upon rights of other party in accordance with the law on IPRs;
• Being used to publish contents infringing IP Law.
When competent authorities have explicit grounds on Vietnam domain name “.vn” infringing IPRs, they would issue an administrative decision to implement administrative measures including:
1. Change the information of the domain name dispute in Vietnam:
When the site under the domain name has published information:
• Infringing IPRs regulations;
• Advertising, introducing and selling identical, similar or related goods or services;
• Damaging the reputation or causing material damage to owner of the protected IP assets.
2. Return the domain name dispute in Vietnam to its rightful owner:
• The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a protected IP asset in which owner of such IP asset is the person who has lawful rights or interests.
• User of the domain name has no lawful rights or interests related to protected IP assets.
• Content of electronic information site under the domain name contains information related to goods or services causing reputation or material damage or contains libelous information of goods or services respectively of owner of such IP assets.
3. Withdraw the domain name dispute in Vietnam:
• User of the domain name infringement in Vietnam does not implement remedial measures of changing the information or return the domain name in accordance with administrative decision of competent authorities within 30 days since such decision comes into effect.
• User of the domain name fails to remove information on electronic information site under the domain name in accordance with demand of competent authorities.
However, Circular 14 still has some irrationalities. Firstly, competent authorities will not apply 3 above measures on Registrant who just register but does not use or has not used. Therefore, it indirectly allows speculative behaviors when supposes that purchasing and investing in domain name is the actual needs and legitimate. Secondly, in case a domain name is withdrawn by competent authorities, it is unfortunate that lawful IPRs owner is not prioritized in re-register such domain name under their name. At this moment, the chance for registration of such domain name is open to every object in accordance with the principle of First Come First Serve.
The new Joint Circular has now created these measures to try and combat domain name dispute in Vietnam. This legal document has improved necessary legal framework for competent authorities in sharing responsibility and coordinating actions. Besides, it also helps authorities to strengthen the cooperation with the business community in handling violations in management and use of Internet resources in Vietnam./.