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Online: Protecting your domain name

03 February 2006
Online: Protecting your domain name

The Problem
The .eu domain name deadline is looming for hotel and catering businesses. Each phase of the staggered application process for the new .eu domain name is on a first-come, first-served basis. Hotel and catering businesses should consider applying to register a .eu website domain name for their brand as soon as possible or risk their name being registered by other parties.

The Law
Individuals and companies within the 25 European Union states may apply to register with the European Registry for Internet Domains (EURid). Applications for the .eu registration process have been prioritised as follows:

  • From 7 December 2005 to
    6 February 2006, public bodies and owners of registered trade marks in the EU (the first phase of the "sunrise period").
  • From 7 February 2006 to April 2006, in addition to those in the first phase of the sunrise period, holders of "all other prior rights" may apply. This category includes those with company names or business identifiers, family names, unregistered trademarks and trade names (the second phase of the sunrise period).
  • From 7 April 2006, registration will be open to all public bodies, companies and individuals registered or resident in the EU (the "landrush").

The .eu domain name may be applied for only through specialist companies licensed by EURid ("accredited registrars"). Should EURid receive more than one valid application for the same name, the process is conducted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Expert Advice The .eu registration process has been staggered to avoid some of the problems experienced during the launch of other top-level domains, with businesses not being given adequate opportunity to protect their names. The sunrise period is designed to offer the holders of certain rights and interests in a name or term the chance to register the relevant .eu address before the landrush period.

Early registration, even during the sunrise period, would be desirable to prevent others from registering a domain name identical or similar to your trademark or business name. This would avoid the potential for others using such a domain name to damage your business or take unfair advantage of its reputation.

When EURid receives an application, it freezes the relevant domain name while the application is processed.

Applications during the sunrise period must be an exact match for the prior right claimed and should be supported, within 40 days of the application, by documentary evidence to prove the existence of such a right. While it's straightforward to provide evidence in the case of, for example, a company name or trademark, greater preparation will be needed to prove an unregistered right, such as an unregistered trademark. Advertisements, invoices and photographs may all help here.

Check list

  • Consider which domain names you want to protect and what rights you may have to substantiate these.
  • Check that the domain name contains between two and 63 characters, comprising the characters a to z, numbers and/or a hyphen. Remember, if the application is made in the sunrise period, the domain name must match the prior right exactly.
  • Contact your professional adviser as soon as possible for guidance on a suitable accredited registrar (a full list may be found at www.eurid.eu) and the preparation of the documentary evidence proving your prior rights.
  • Provide your accredited registrar with the necessary details.
  • Each accredited registrar has the ability to set its registration fee, but these are likely to be at least 10 per domain name.

Beware! EURid received nearly 100,000 applications in the first three hours after the official launch on 7 December 2005. Perhaps unsurprisingly, "sex.eu" was the most sought-after domain name. However, this was closely followed by "hotel.eu" and "hotels.eu" in second and fifth places, respectively.

It may be wise to register soon, otherwise you could lose the opportunity to boost your business's European identity or worse, another business could either take advantage of or damage your brand.

However, you should consider whether the benefits of registration justify the expense and effort involved.

Contact
Romain Dourlen
Solicitor at Withers
020 7597 6000
romain.dourlen@withersworldwide.com

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