What are domain names and how are they protected? 

Surely, everyone knows, at least to a certain extent, what the domain name is and what is its purpose. From the technical perspective, domain name is a unique address that identifies in user-friendly terms particular content hosted on the Internet and provides users with certain “directions” on how to find such content. 

 

However, legally speaking, domain names are sort of odd animals. As opposed to trademarks, patents, designs and other intellectual property rights, there is not any special legal category that would deal solely with domain names. As a consequence to that, one has to resort to the existing legal categories in order to find one that fits most to legal issues that are often associated with domain names. In the absence of specific regulation for domain names, they are often dealt with like obligations that arise from the contract between domain names registrars and individual registrants (registration agreement).

 

Under such registration agreement, each registrant has the right to particular domain name while the registrar is obliged to provide the registrant with access to such a domain name. It follows that when dealing with domain names, general contract law and specific conditions set forth in the registration agreement would govern any underlying transactions. Drawing on that, any transfer or cancellation of the domain name would rather be a transfer of the obligation that arise from the registration agreement, or a complete cancellation of such registration agreement respectively.

How do domain names work?

Example: Adam intends to register the domain name in order to advance his business plans further and wants to establish a website under such domain name. Adam concludes a registration agreement with one of the many domain registrars (see the list of the Czech registrars at this link) and has now an exclusive right to use registered domain name. Adam is only limited by the conditions set forth in the registration agreement and by the limitations that follow from the laws of the jurisdiction of the particular domain name registry.

Domain registry (not to be confused with domain registrar) is an entity which is responsible for particular generic domain names (ICANN), country-code domain names (e.g. EURid for .eu TLD, CZ-NIC for .cz TLD, or SK-NIC for .sk TLD) or so called new generic domain names such as for example .name, .online, .beer, etc. (there is a substantial number of registries for these new gTLD).

This means that if there is any issue concerning domain name which Adam has previously registered, such issue shall be resolved according to the terms of the registration agreement and according to the applicable law of the particular jurisdiction depending on geographical location of the domain name registry (e.g. ICANN > US law, EURid > EU law, CZ-NIC > Czech law, SK-NIC > Slovak law).