New '.gr' system draws line between domain names and trademarks

Greece

Following a lengthy public consultation process, the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) has issued a decision (268/73/2002) that will introduce a new regulatory framework for the management of domain names in the country-code top-level domain '.gr'. The new framework is expected to come into force by the end of the year and will introduce clear rules for the registration, activation and assignment of '.gr' names.

The responsibility for managing the '.gr' domain, which is currently handled by the Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, will be assumed by a group of private registrars. Upon receipt of a domain name application, a registrar will forward it to a central registry for provisional activation. Then it will investigate whether the name should be accepted or rejected, and file its recommendations with the EETT, which will remain the only body that is able to register domain names. The new framework allows for, among other things, a change of registrar or the transfer of a '.gr' name.

In order to protect against cybersquatting, domain name applications must be accompanied by a declaration that to the best of the registrant's knowledge the name does not infringe any third-party rights. A false declaration will constitute grounds for deletion of the domain name. Further, before the name is finally registered, any person with a legitimate interest may request that the EETT not go ahead.

Registration of a '.gr' domain name confers upon the registrant an exclusive licence to use the name on the Internet. However, the new regulation specifically states that the domain name holder does not acquire any trademark rights in any business, product or service it offers just by virtue of the domain name registration.

Similarly, the registration of a trademark with the Greek Trademarks Office does not necessarily confer any rights over its use as a domain name. However, Greek courts have twice held that '.gr' domain name registrations were unlawful because they (i) infringed a third party's previously registered trademark or trade name, and (ii) constituted an act of unfair competition (because the registrant and the third party were competitors).

Anastasia S Dritsa, Kyriakides - Georgopoulos, Athens

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