Will Slovakia say farewell to its old domain name registration system?
There is hope that the Slovak domain name registration system will shortly witness dramatic change. SK-NIC (the company responsible for administering .sk ccTLD) is in the process of introducing several long-awaited changes and has launched a public consultation with interested stakeholders (state authorities, registrars and IP lawyers).
At this stage Slovakia is the only country in Central and Eastern Europe where .sk country-level domain names can only be registered by national, Slovak-based entities. Arbitration proceedings are not currently available; recovery needs to be sought through court proceedings, which makes domain name recovery time-consuming and sometimes rather costly.
SK-NIC has decided to tackle this and is proposing several important changes. The most significant suggestion is the introduction of arbitration proceedings as a means to resolve conflicts. A clause accepting an arbitration court as the sole and exclusive body with jurisdiction to decide domain name disputes will be contained in the registration agreement. Although it has not yet been finally decided which arbitration court will have the competency to decide .sk domain name disputes, the likely options are the arbitration court in Prague, which currently hears all .cz and .eu disputes, or (by the creation of) a new domain name arbitration court in Bratislava. Given the similarities of the Czech and Slovak languages, a Czech arbitration court could be a quick and easy option.
Apart from submitting evidence in either Slovak or Czech, a new and very modern feature which is being considered will be the possibility of submitting evidence in English, without the need to provide a certified translation.
Registrars will be given additional responsibility as regards verifying the accuracy of the contact details provided by their registrants. It is proposed that registrars will bear the consequences of incorrect contact details which are submitted by their registrants.
Another change which is being considered is an extension to the registration period (currently one year only), up to a maximum of 99 years.
Cybersquatting in Slovakia is currently prevalent. Infringements are numerous and rights holders have been reluctant to bring actions against the infringers, who use the popularity of their brands to generate profit. Quick adoption of the newly proposed amendments will probably in particular please foreign companies that do not have a physical presence in Slovakia and which are forced to use the Slovak registrars for defensive domain name registration.
The fact that solely Slovak-based entities are entitled to register .sk domain names often results in a situation whereby Slovak registrars, while “holding” the domain name for a foreign company, rather than leaving the site blank or re-directing the site’s visitors to the rights holder’s original page, “hold” the domain by generating profit from domain name parking or by promoting their own webhosting/other services. When the rights holder brings an action against an infringer, it often discovers that the infringer is actually the registrar who had been asked to “block” the domain to prevent cybersquatting. By deleting the “based in Slovakia” criterion and extending the registration period, foreign companies will be able to hold and administer all their domain names centrally.
Although SK-NIC is still in discussions with the relevant ministries, registrars and other stakeholders, there seems to be general agreement that the status quo is no longer acceptable. There is therefore a strong likelihood that the parties will agree the new changes in the near future. The date when these changes could come into effect could be as early as July 2012.