With the development of technologies more and more terms enter our everyday lives and sometimes it gets hard to define them or to distinguish the similar ones from each other. The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) in its Decision No 1016 of 15 December 2022 on a file with entry number CPC – 436/2022 (“the Decision”) has an occasion to clarify the difference between three similar terms – domain, digital mailbox and web address.
The specific proceedings before the CPC concerns a former employee of an enterprise, who continues to use the e-mail (digital mailbox), provided by the enterprise, after changing his employer with another enterprise. The two companies appear as competitors of one another and using the e-mail is regarded as an imitation by the original employer, that denies ever allowing in any way his former employee to continue to use the e-mail provided by the enterprise after the termination of employment.
However, the special jurisdiction accepts that since the original employer has provided voluntarily the e-mail to his then-employee, it has been in his power afterwards to terminate the access to it. The fact that no measures have been taken to block such access, can not be used to imply bad faith to the opposing enterprise.
Here precisely the CPC comes to distinguish the terms domain, digital mailbox and web address from each other in its Decision. According to the Commission “unlike domains, the e-mail addresses are associated mostly with the person, who uses them, and not with the domain, to which they belong. As opposed to a web address of an internet page, that matches the domain and for which a search engine can be used to find a concrete website, the e-mail address has to be typed correctly in the recipient field of the respective application, because its misspelling leads to the intended recipient not receiving the letter“. So, the domain appears to be what the users type in the browser address bar in order to load a certain web page; the web address leads to the location of the web page or the file in the Internet; while the e-mail address, as a system that allows users to exchange messages, remains mostly related to the person using it.
According to the text set out in the Decision, the e-mails containing a domain, that is allegedly imitated, don’t create a deception, nor their usage violates the good faith and could not endanger the competitor’s interests.
The CPC is using all three of the aforementioned concepts, so clarifying the difference between them is in favor not only of the parties in this particular proceedings, but to everyone else that uses them as well.