As from January 2016, trademark owners have been unable to efficiently enforce their rights infringed by domain name registrations in Macedonia. The ADR arbitration for domain name dispute resolution regarding the Macedonian country code top level domain names (.mk, .com.mk, .inf.mk, etc.) has been cancelled. Until January these disputes were handled by the Macedonian domain name registration authority (MARnet), but sadly, this mechanism was never widely used.
The Decision on cancellation of MARnet’s ADR arbitration stipulates that future domain name disputes will be handled by competent courts. Such a solution might be controversial, since in practice trademark infringement proceedings before courts usually last long and outcomes in this type of disputes are rather uncertain. A court case law in this matter does not exist and it remains to be seen whether this solution will be efficient in practice.
It is not impossible that resolution of future domain name disputes will be delegated to WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. After all, this mechanism has been already used by several countries in the region (Montenegro, Romania, Moldova etc.) for resolving disputes that involve their national domains.
The ADR proceedings have offered a time and cost efficient mechanism for resolving this type of issues, while standard court proceedings show a rather large number of deficiencies (long period of time for resolving the matters in the first instance, high costs, identity or similarity of infringing use with goods and services for which the trademark is protected – this issue is especially problematic for parked domains, domains without any content etc.). The aforementioned issues might be discouraging for the trademark owners whose rights are infringed by domain name registrations, as enforcement of their rights would be less than easy.
The first effects of this decision are already visible. The number of potential bad faith registrations has significantly risen since January. Absence of an efficient protection mechanism can certainly encourage cybersquatters, and it is quite possible that this trend will continue in future.
There is a number of countries in the region that lack efficient national mechanisms for resolving these type of issues, but in this case we are witnessing a unique situation where a country has already constituted such authority and then inexplicably renounced the same. One might say that the Macedonian legislation regarding the domain name protection takes one step forward and then goes two steps back.