Out-Law News | 24 Nov 2005 | 4:36 pm | 3 min. read
Put simply, it is cheap to register a .eu domain name and it stops anyone else getting the same name. Expect to pay about £35 for one year if you apply today using a pre-registration service (explained below).
If you don't, and someone else gets the name first, legal proceedings will be expensive.
In a dispute, your choice is to go to court or arbitration. Court is generally more expensive than arbitration – you can easily spend £10,000 on a domain name dispute before a court. With arbitration, you will pay at least €1,190 in fees to the Czech arbitration court (which will handle all .eu disputes), but that's before you hire a lawyer. It's still cheaper to avoid a dispute if possible.
We are seeking out-law.eu and pinsentmasons.eu in case anyone else tries to get them. We can apply for them now because we have registered trade marks for both brands. Do we need the .eu names? Possibly not; they will be added to our ever-expanding portfolio of names we do not use. But it's still cheaper to build this portfolio than face a single dispute.
It's difficult to imagine anyone else wanting pinsentmasons.eu. Unfortunately, that logic does not prevent cybersquatting. Perhaps surprisingly, cybersquatting has never gone away. Every day, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (which handles .com, .net and .org disputes) sends an email listing its latest decisions. Today's email listed five transfers to brand owners: savechildren.info, vw-service.com, wwwuniversalorlando.com, aerlingus.net and chinacasio.com. You can guess the brand owner in each case.
Why did anyone bother to register aerlingus.net? Ireland's national airline recovered the name from a registrant known as "Aeroplane Enthusiasts," according to today's report. The registrant apparently told Aer Lingus Limited that it would be using the name for an aircraft enthusiasts' website. If true, the choice of name was misguided. In any case, the site never materialised; instead, the name pointed to rival Ryanair's website. So Aer Lingus took action. The registrant, probably paying £35 or less for the name, did not bother to reply to the complaint, and Aer Lingus won. But it won at a cost of US$1,500 in WIPO's fee plus whatever it was charged by its representative, F.R.Co., a firm of patent and trade mark attorneys in Dublin. It seems a waste of money, but Aer Lingus was right to take action.
This was just one example from today's rulings. There are numerous disputes like this one. To minimise the prospects of getting into such a dispute ourselves, we have filed so-called defensive registrations for out-law.eu and pinsentmasons.eu. This is a small price to pay.
Registration is open to any individual, company or organisation in the EU, but not yet. The launch of the domain will be phased, with owners of registered national or Community trade marks getting priority access.
A Sunrise Period begins on 7th December 2005 for these brand holders to snap up names that exactly match their marks. If you and another company have the same trade mark for different purposes, therefore an equal right to the same .eu name, allocation is on a first come, first served basis.
There are many accredited sellers of .eu domain names. You can approach one today and they will likely accept pre-registrations. Pre-registration does not guarantee that you will get the name; but it does guarantee a quick submission of the application when the doors open. If your application fails, much of the pre-registration fee is likely to be refunded.
The next phase launches on 7th February 2006. From that date, other names reflecting rights protected under national laws can be registered as .eu names – e.g. unregistered trade marks, company names and distinctive titles of literary works.
On 7th April 2006, the Sunrise Period ends and registrations open on a first-come-first-served basis.
Some .eu registrations will be from those wanting to highlight the European aspects of their organisations; but most registrations will likely do nothing – or nothing more than redirect traffic to an existing website that operates under another domain name suffix.
Don't expect to see anything at out-law.eu if our registration is successful. All we're doing is getting up early to lay our towel on a little deck chair by the pool of cyberspace.
By Struan Robertson, Editor of OUT-LAW. These are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pinsent Masons.