The Domain Name Commission is considering extending the
".nz" domain name space by allowing people to register at
the "second level". If that happens it will create new
marketing and branding opportunities and challenges for all
whether particular interest groups (like ".wine.nz")
should be catered for
whether certain names should be prohibited because they could
be confusing, and
how the system might best be managed.
To explain: the top level domain is ".nz", the second
is ".co" and the third is "domain". Right now
".nz" domain names can only be registered at the third
level and within a limited number of second level domains such as
The proposed change would mean that, for example, yourname.nz
could be a valid domain name. The Commission is also considering
whether to allow new second level domains to cater for names that
require special protection (for instance
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers),
is the outfit which runs the domain name system. It recently issued
a list of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) which are internet
domain name extensions like ".net", ".com" or
About 1,930 applications have been lodged, around 300 of them
from the Asia-Pacific region. The applications are dominated by
players like telco companies, some banks, L'Oreal, Amazon and
Wal-Mart. But many organisations, for instance Coca-Cola, have not
bothered (an application costs US$185,000).
There is a 60 day consultation period (from 13 June) for anyone
with a legitimate interest. If someone has applied for a
"string" that is similar to an existing "TLD",
a third party can object. Seven months is allowed for an objection,
which triggers ICANN's dispute resolution procedure and
attracts fees. The whole process is at the ICANN website (http://www.icann.org/).
Chapman Tripp comment
Domain names themselves provide no exclusive rights. But they
can be valuable marketing tools. So it is possible that a domain
name might be confusing. Some people might wonder who is actually
operating a particular name. This could happen, for instance, when
a domain name allowed in New Zealand is the same as one used in
another country, such as .govt and .com.
Another source of possible confusion is when a domain name
holder registers a generic name and then allows someone else to
operate under a misleading sub-domain. The Commission's example
is shop.nz with sub-domains of book.shop.nz and
cake.shop.nz (or worse, kodak.shop.nz if the
sub-domain was not run by Kodak).
Time was that a trade mark protected in one country was free for
the taking in another. But the world has shrunk and gone digital so
trade marks increasingly spill over borders.
When domain names became an issue in the 1990s there was a spate
of cases of "cyberpiracy" but that has settled down
(though not disappeared). Perhaps businesses, as with company
names, have become accustomed to similar domain names and consumers
have also become more sophisticated.
However those businesses who do rely on domain names as part of
their promotion strategy should consider making a submission. The
full consultation paper can be viewed at http://dnc.org.nz/second_level_proposal_c1.
The information in this article is for informative purposes
only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact
Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.
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