Domain disputes set to rise with new registration rules

Finland

The government has drafted a Domain Names Act that is expected to come into force by March 2003. The new, domain-specific law will replace current non-specific legislation that was issued in June 2000 by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority.

The Domain Names Act will establish new registration and eligibility requirements. The draft act states that the country-code top-level domain '.fi' may be granted only to:

  • Finnish legal persons;

  • practicing professionals in Finland who are registered in the national Trade Register; and

  • Finnish public corporations.

To be considered a 'Finnish legal person', a foreign company must have a branch office with a formal representative listed in the Finnish Trade Register.

The new law will broaden the policy regarding the types of name that may be registered. Current legislation provides that only the applicant's trade name or registered trademarks may be registered as domain names. The only restrictions in the new act are that domain names:

  • must consist of at least three characters (letters or symbols);

  • may not contain expressions that are contrary to "good practice or public order"; and

  • may not be false or misleading.

Domain names granted under the new act will be registered for a maximum initial period of three years, renewable for further periods of three years.

The Communications Regulatory Authority will no longer be responsible for examining and ensuring that the applicant has a legal right to the domain name. (Because companies have been able to register only their trade names and registered trademarks, there have been few disputes to date. This is likely to change with the broader registration rules contained in the draft.) However, the Communications Regulatory Authority will continue to have the authority to temporarily deactivate or permanently cancel a domain name if there are reasons to suspect that the name violates another party's intellectual property rights.

Kimmo Rekola and Kristiina Vuori, Castrén & Snellman, Helsinki

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