By Dr. Nguyen Hoan Thanh

Copyright And Computer Law Department

Domain names have become increasingly valuable, as demand has risen with the exponential growth in commerce on the Internet. The Internet in Vietnam has opened two years only and continues to take shape. All current Vietnamese legal regulations concerning with the Internet are temporary and will have changes in close future. Vietnam Posts and Telecommunication Corporation, the unique Internet Accessing Provider (IAP) in Vietnam, is authorized by the General Department of Posts and Telecommunications (DGPT) to manage the servers system of domain name in Vietnam and participating in the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC) as a clue for applying for Internet addresses granting in order to meet the Internet demands in Vietnam (Decision 465/QD dated August 14, 1997 of the General Director of DGPT). According to current legal system, the VNNIC is the state authority in charge of managing domain names system and granting domain names in Vietnam. However, at present time, the VNNIC has not been yet established and his functions have been temporarily assigned to the Posts Policy Division of DGPT.

Principles on the formation of domain names in Vietnam

The domain name shall be formed on the following principles:

i. The maximum number of domain name levels, including the highest level domain name ".VN", is 5;

ii. The domain name within the relevant domain name level is unique;

iii. The domain names should involve only letters from A to Z, a-z and numbers from 0 to 9;

iv. The number of characters of each level shall not exceed 15.

Under the highest-level domain name .VN, domain names of level 2 are as follows:

General domain names mean Internet domain names, which are allocated by limited speciality, comprising of

  • COM.VN: allocated for enterprises, companies, and commercial organizations-,
  • EDU.VN: allocated for research and educational bodies, and schools;
  • GOV.VN: allocated for authorities under the Central or local State Machinery;
  • NET.VN: allocated for organizations and companies operating their network functions,
  • ORG.VN: allocated for political and social organizations;
  • INT.VN: allocated for representatives of international organizations in Vietnam;

Domain names under network names of the Internet service providers (ISP) are presently comprised of VNN.VN (VDC), FPT.VN (FPT), NETNAM.VN (Netnam), SAIGONNET.VN (Saigon Postel Corp.). Those domain names are granted to the limited number.

The General Department of Posts and Telecommunications directly manages the domain names of level 2 (including: domain names under the network names of the Internet services provider, general domain names under limited speciality) and the domain names of level 3 following the general domain names.

Understanding the growing role of the Internet as a source of information, communication, entertainment and commerce, the DGPT has granted some regulations restricting possible disputes with regard to rights of intellectual property.

Principle on registration of domain names

i. The domain names shall be registered on the First Come - First Served basis.

ii. The registered domain names must be in conformity with the regulations on copyright and industrial property in connection with the domain name set-up. With respect to the registration of the domain names using well-know geographic place names (such as, HANOI, HOCHIMINH, etc), terms implying national significance (such as VIETNAM, VN, NATIONAL, VIETNAMESE, etc.) and names of international organizations (such as UN, UNESCO, ITU, etc), must obtain approval from the competent authorities.

iii. The domain name under registration shall not contain the following:

  • Terms violating national benefit and/or terms, which do not conform to the social morality and the national cultural way of life.
  • Term containing common name of an economic line and/or common names of a type of goods.

iv. The entity wishing to register the domain name shall clarify the relationship between the domain name under registration and its activities and shall take full liabilities there under. The Posts Policy Division of DGPT reserves the right to revoke the rights to use and transfer the domain name to the claiming party, provided that they have registered trademarks or other protected intellectual objects in Vietnam, with which the domain has interfered.

Violation Handling

Any violation shall be handled in accordance with the regulations of the laws. The General Department of Posts and Telecommunications shall revoke the rights to use the domain names and IP addresses in the following cases:

i. Entities violating the provisions of the Internet regulations

ii. Any violation to copyright, industrial property.

iii. Wasted use of IP addresses.

iv. The managing server has not established within 60 days as from the grant of domain names.

Domain name disputes

At present moment, there are only about one thousand of registered domain names under .VN in Vietnam. Therefore, there is not yet any domain name dispute in the practice. However, it does not assume that it is not necessary to protect the value and validity of their registered trademarks and/or company name. It is important for trademark owners to be vigilant in the protection of their trademarks on the Internet. This includes acting to secure domain names, which incorporate their most valued trademarks on the most commercially valuable domains and the regular auditing of those domains to detect any misuse or unauthorized use of their trademarks. Regarding to company names and business names, the protection thereof in Vietnam is discussed and will be granted in the future only. Therefore, the registration of domain name to secure the company name and/or the business name has an actual significance.

As above-mentioned, it is important to note that in Vietnam:

i. Domain name registration is on the first come, first served basis. The best way to secure your Domain Name is to register it as early as possible.

ii. It is important to conduct trademark search in domain name registration for avoiding possible domain name disputes. When applying for a Domain Name, DGPT does not perform any type of examination of a Domain Name other than to see if the identical name has been reserved. The applicant shall take full liabilities there under;

iii. The Vietnamese legislator has made the "cybersquatting" not possible in Vietnam: the domain name transfer and/or sale is prohibited.

iv. It is difficult for unfair competitors in bad faith to register the domain names to block the trademark holder from registering the name under .VN, because the applicants must show the connection of the domain names under registration to their business and the registered domain names must be in use as an active site within 60 days as from the grant of domain names.

v. Any intellectual property owner may claim DGPT for revoking the rights to use a registered domain name, which identical or confusingly similar to a protected intellectual object belonging to the complainant.

vi. It is required to register the trademark to more secure the registered domain name against possible claims of other protected trademark owners with DGPT.

The Vietnamese trademark law cannot assist to protect against domain name holders because of its uncertainness in the Internet field. There are not any determinations of trademark infringing and trademark use in the Internet. The trademark law is not effective in "twin" dispute situations. Unlike domain names, which are unique, in some circumstances multiple parties in relation to unrelated goods or services and where there is no likelihood of deception or confusion might use the same trademark. It is very difficult to prevent and resolve "twin" disputes, where two traders have legitimate rights to use the same trademark and both attempt to secure the same domain name. At present time, there is only one best way: to register the domain name as soon as possible.

The international aspect of the Internet raises another issue associated with domain names. Each country assigns its own domain names under own country-level code. Accordingly, although a particular domain name may not be available in one country, that domain name may be available in jurisdiction of another country. Because the development of E-Commerce is exponential, companies have begun seriously to consider setting up foreign Web sites to register their domain names internationally. Such a global approach will prevent a company's domain name from being appropriated and used by a third party as part of its international domain name. Because the international domain name can easily be linked to a domestic Web site, a seamless international level of domain name protection can be provided at minimal additional cost. Vietnam has became the country where is necessary to register.

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