New regulation on '.tr' domain names issued

Turkey
The Ministry of Communications has issued a Regulation on Internet Domain Names, which concerns the procedures for the registration and management of '.tr' domain names. Although some provisions entered into force with the publication of the regulation in the Official Journal on November 7 2010, the enforcement of other - rather essential - provisions will be delayed for at least two years. However, whether in the short term or in the long term, the regulation still brings significant changes.

Since 1991 domain names under the '.tr' country-code top-level domain were administered by:

NIC.TR issued '.tr' domain names on a first-come, first-served basis, following the model of several generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as '.biz', '.info', '.web' and '.tv'. However, to obtain a domain name registration under the most popular gTLDs (eg, '.com', '.net' and '.org'), applicants were also required to provide documentation of their rights over the domain name at issue. Therefore, an applicant for a '.com.tr' domain name also had to prove that:
  • it held an application or registration for a trademark that was equivalent to the domain name at issue; or
  • it owned a company established in Turkey whose name was equivalent to the domain name.
In order to obtain a '.com.tr' domain name, many global trademark owners chose to base their applications on their Turkish trademark registrations. Those who did not own a national registration could only watch while third parties registered their desired '.tr' domain names based on bad-faith trademark applications or company incorporations. As the World Intellectual Property Organisation and other globally known dispute resolution authorities were not authorised to hear disputes involving '.tr' domain names, and as NIC.TR did not have a functioning dispute resolution unit, such disputes were being heard by the civil courts - trademark owners thus had to spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort in order to protect their rights.

However, the new regulation brings about major amendments to the registration and management of '.tr' domain names.

First, the regulation replaces NIC.TR with the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, a governmental body established by law. The authority will be the sole administrator and regulator of '.tr' domain names. In this respect, the regulation allows private entities to apply to the authority to become certified registrars in Turkey. Further, the regulation provides for the establishment of an information system for '.tr' domain names, TRABIS, which will serve as a database for all registered '.tr' domain names. Until TRABIS is fully functional (within two years), the old registration system will remain in existence.

Second, the regulation provides that '.com.tr', '.net.tr' and '.org.tr' domain names will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Although the enforcement of this provision will be delayed until the TRABIS database is fully operational, global trademark owners should keep an eye on this development.

The regulation also enables the sale, transfer and cancellation of '.tr' domain names, which means that many domain name owners - and especially global IP rights owners - will be able to freely transfer the domain names in their IP portfolios. Although the enforcement of this provision is delayed for three years following the introduction of TRABIS, it is an important development since it is not currently possible to sell and transfer domain names in Turkey.

Moreover, the regulation allows the creation of alternative dispute resolution authorities within professional institutions, universities and international organisations, and recognises the dispute resolution rules currently applied by ICANN. In this respect, an applicant for dispute resolution should demonstrate:
  • that it has rights over the domain name at issue;
  • that the defendant has no rights or interests in the domain name; and
  • the defendant's bad faith.
Finally, the regulation provides a list of domains which are restricted or banned from registration. The list is to be prepared and published by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority; an opt-out option is available upon application and provision of supporting evidence.

The regulation thus brings the Turkish system closer to global standards. However, considering the expected delays in the enforcement of the regulation, as well as the need for a practical and cost-effective alternative dispute resolution procedure, the authority has a busy schedule ahead.

Ceylin Beyli, CBL Law Office, Istanbul

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