Domain Extension Confusion arising from .tc

By Korcan Dericioglu & Ayca Pinar Eren Yasar

Posted: 27th December 2012 12:40

With the prevalence of its use, the Internet started being with us in every moment of our lives, being involved in our mobile phones and even in our home appliances.  Beyond this, the developed search engine infrastructure and social media networks brought a new dimension to usage habits in internet.  While we used to access a website by inserting the domain name with its extension in the browser, now it is possible to access through a search engine and/or follow it over social media.
 
On the account of these usage habits, the frame of Intellectual Property infringements and protection mechanisms has undergone a change.  Search engines and social media sites set their own policies to sustain their services in a reputable manner and try to prevent against infringements by operating their complaint mechanisms.  “Sunrise Periods” have primarily been taken into agenda for right holders in the new domain name extensions.  For gTLDs moreover, Trademark Clearinghouse system is on the agenda for the similar reasons.
 
The main reason for the policies and systems for the prevention of Intellectual Property infringements worldwide, particularly in the Internet community, is the malicious courses of action.  As in the whole world, many well-known and highly reputable persons and brand owners still have big problems about this issue in domain names and in social media.  Even if there are some mechanisms such as UDRP and the complaint mechanism to the related social media platform, considering the pervasion speed of the data / information on Internet, most of the time, many of the mechanisms operated run late.  Additionally, as anonymity is essential in these mechanisms, the possibility to enact any compensation or penal sanctioning afterwards gets highly difficult.  Therefore, beyond the purpose of use, right holders started to prefer to register these domain names and social media accounts for protective purposes in order to eliminate the infringement risks.  Even this issue constitutes an inconvenience and creates a domain name and social media account trash.
 
The domain names with .tc extension, which are on the agenda of Turkey recently, are such as to be a good case study on that manner.
 
Domain names with .tc extension were opened to registration in 1997 and are referred to Turks&Caicos Islands.  The registrar making the related domain name registration is the Adamsnames Company originated in England.  Afterwards, a German Company acquired Adamsnames and the registration of .tc domain names was paused for a period by means of changing their rules and policies.  After an intense promotional activity as of August by a company founded in Turkey, .tc domain names were “re-served” to the internet community, especially in Turkey, launched with a privileged “sunrise” process to the right holders starting from 5 November 2012, continued with a “landrush” period starting from 29 November 2012 and finalised with “general availability” process to start as of 4 December 2012.
 
The most interesting issue is that after the re-structuring of .tc domain names, the promotion and marketing activities were deliberately focusing in Turkey. Even though the official domain name extension for Turkey is .tr, the abbreviation “TC” refers to the Republic of Turkey in Turkish. Therefore, this appears to be the fundamental commercial reason behind that.  The domain names with .tc extension, which were not known in Turkey before, started suddenly to be identified with Turkey or a possibility for such identification emerged.  In other words, due to promotion and marketing activities, the domain names with .tc extension started to be associated with Turkey and a misperception for Turkey-based Internet users arouse.
 
Even though well-known and highly reputable persons and brand owners, who previously suffered from the bad-faith registrations and related blackmail activities, do not have any intention to use domain names with .tc extension, they still tried to register all their brands in “Sunrise period” to prevent malicious use of third-parties.
 
On the other hand, domain names with .tc extension had been allocated since 1997 even before the policy amendments, as different from other systems.  Thus, the domain names were registered according to "first come, first serve" principle. In this regard, brand owners, who tried to register their brands with a .tc extension according to new policies in the "sunrise" process, saw that this domain name had already been registered and got the false perception that the same brand name has already been obtained by another person/firm as that information is not shared as required and created an impression as the domain name extension is newly and specifically launched for Turkey.  Another point is the registration fee, which is around $250 USD demanded for one year in sunrise process.  This amount was also found high and criticised.  However, registration of these domain names was performed by a number of persons for protective purposes despite the intense reactions.
 
There have been also some discrepancies and complications.  The demands for Intellectual Property Infringements about the domain names registered before August 2012, which is the date policies changed and allocations stopped, are in the frame of the rules and policies determined by ADAMSNAMES.  This means that it will be obligatory to execute the arbitrations and procedures originated in England and Wales.  However, demands after the policy amendments will be conducted within the body of Istanbul Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Commission and will be binding.  But again, if there is a usage infringing an Intellectual Property right, it will be possible to take the domain name from its owner as required by the policies and rules stated by ADAMSNAMES. At the present point, it is undecided to whom a complaint relating a domain name which is registered before August 2012 will be done and in which the country's frame of laws and court practices the concepts of usage and infringement will be assessed.  Since, bilateral administrative and legal principles fall behind the importance given to sales, promotion and marketing policies, the system contains contradictions within itself, which is another reason for the “sunrise” demand of many right holders.
 
The fact that domain names with .tc extension will be adopted and used in Turkey or will be disappearing in the domain name trash in 2013, will depend on whether TCNET, who announced that they will be distributing domain names for free to public and governmental organisations and institutions as an act of social responsibility, but at the same time is said to be registering the famous brands on their own behalf for protective purpose, will revise their policies or not.
 

Mrs. Yasar graduated from Ankara University Faculty of Law in 1996 and was admitted to the Ankara Bar Association at 1997.  She leads a group that provides advice on all IP topics, especially infringement and counterfeiting with 15 years of experience.  She is an attorney at law and Chartered Turkish Patent & Trademark Attorney.  She is a member of INTA and AIPPI Turkish National Group.
 
Mrs. Yasar can be contacted via email at ayca.yasar@dericiogluyasar.av.tr
 
Mr. Dericioglu graduated from Baskent University Faculty of Law in 2004 and was admitted to the Ankara Bar Association in 2005.  He graduated from the University of Lausanne with a DEA in Legal Issues, Crime and Security of New Technologies in 2007.  He is an attorney at law and Chartered Turkish Patent & Trademark Attorney.  He leads a group that provides legal services on all IT an Telecommunications Law.
 
Mr. Dericioglu can be contacted via email at korcan.dericioglu@dericiogluyasar.av.tr
 

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