What is going on?
As the new year begins, we can reflect back on how the courts judged in 2020. For this matter, we have chosen an interesting Supreme Court decision dealing with IP/IT law. In this case, it has identified two interesting facts which might be applied in future disputes of this type.
Firstly, the Court legally defined a domain name. It’s quite a thing; the Court ruled that a domain name is “a text through which entities or their goods and services can be identified on the Internet, and this domain name consists of a text string, hierarchically arranged in levels separated from each other by dots.”
Secondly, the Court judged that “the competent court for its hearing and decision is (…) the District Court of Banská Bystrica.”
Why is it important?
Case law is often used in disputes, it is argued both by judges as well as attorneys. The definition brought by this decision also entails a presumption of the further direction of the courts’ decision-making.
The fact that the court defined a domain name is therefore quite important. The legal definition of the domain names is absent from the legislature of the Slovak Republic, the same goes for the thesaurus of the legal information portal Slov-Lex. The way in which the Court defined the domain name placed it under the so-called “right to designation”, since the purpose of the domain name is to literally mark the place in the virtual world in which the website is located. This right belongs to a group of rights similar to industrial rights, which is important for the further development of case-law and legal awareness in the field of domain names.
Furthermore, the argument on causal jurisdiction cited above serves to support the argument of the Court. According to Code of Civil Procedure in Disputes, the District Court of Banská Bystrica is competent to hear all disputes over industrial property in the entire territory of the Slovak Republic. The fact that the Court also found that the District Court of Banská Bystrica is competent to hear disputes over domain names may serve as an obiter dictum, a supporting argument for the inclusion of domain names to industrial property rights.
What will happen next?
As defined by the Ministry of Culture, industrial property law protects industrial property objects that are created by creative intellectual activity (e.g., inventions, technical solutions, designs) or industrial property objects which distinguish products and services on the market. However, the fact that domain names may be classified in this category does not automatically mean that they are granted protection; registration with Industrial Property Office of the Slovak Republic is required to achieve this.
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