Cybersquatting law codifies and extends domain name protection

Belgium

The abusive registration of domain names is now covered by a new Belgian law just published in the State Gazette. Although Belgian courts and alternative dispute resolution entities have been successful in adapting existing legislation to deal with abusive registrations, the new law extends the scope of protection and offers a solid legal basis on which victims of cybersquatting can bring a claim.

The law applies to domain names in the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) '.be' regardless of the registrant's location. It also applies to generic top-level domains (eg, '.com' or '.org') and other ccTLDs (eg, '.uk' or '.fr') where the alleged cybersquatter is based in Belgium. The law does not prevent the injured party from basing its claim on other legislation such as trademark or trade practices law, both of which are often relied on in cybersquatting cases.

The law defines an 'abusive registration' as any domain name registration that is made with an officially recognized organization where:

  • the registrant has no right or legitimate interest in the domain name;

  • the registration was made with the intention of harming a third party or to obtain unfair commercial advantage; and

  • the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark, trade name, patronymic name, company or association name, geographical indication, designation of origin, or name of a geographical entity belonging to someone else.

In the event of abusive registration, the injured party is entitled to initiate proceedings in the Commercial Court if the defendant is engaged in commerce or the Court of First Instance if the defendant is an individual. This extension of authority to the Court of First Instance is a considerable improvement as other applicable legislation (eg, the Trade Practices Act 1991) mainly provides only for remedies against commercial entities. If the registration is held to be abusive, the court may order an injunction that requires the transfer or deletion of the domain name.

Bastiaan Bruyndonckx, Linklaters De Bandt, Brussels

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