Over the last years, most of Europe’s ccTLDs administrations have either cancelled or at least seriously liberalized the restrictions to domain name registrations in their zones.

It’s no longer possible to advocate that gTLDs are the only extensions used for Corporate communication, and that ccTLDs have an interest only, if at all, for preventive/ defensive purposes only.

The best example is the .de domain zone, with DeNIC having the brilliant position of second in volume of domains registered (over 7 million names), after .com.

In France, AFNIC is proud to communicate that .FR is a secure space.

Indeed, it is so secure that it does count less than 180 000 registrations!

Now, AFNIC, the French Naming Authority, is taking steps for a broad liberalization of domain name registration under .fr.

As from May 11th, next, anyone listed on official on-line French databases (such as for instance any foreign company owner of a TM registration valid in France, i.e. French, International Registration designating France or registered CTM) ) will be allowed to apply, on a first come/ first served basis, for the registration of ANY DOMAIN NAME of his choice, without any relation to a company name or trademark (thus any generic, descriptive or fancy name)!

The Bastille may have fallen, but the territorial link to France will remain (as it remains in the .nl and the .se zone, for instance),. From May 11 next, it will become compulsory for any .fr admin contact to be physically located in France, even if he has no relation to the applicant’s company.

Under these circumstances, it is advisable:

  1. to check or let check the accuracy of your clients data in the French databases (such as INPI, for instance). Indeed, in the event the applicant data provided for the registration of .FR domains (as from May 11th) would not correspond to the database, it is likely that AFNIC would not proceed with the application until the database is amended, which might jeopardize your clients filing strategy.
  2. to list all the important names which your clients did not/ could not register under .FR to this day. These names may be related to their marks and brands or even be more generic terms corresponding, for instance, to their activity (since long unavailable under .com, but possibly available under .fr), or any generic/ descriptive or fancy term.
  3. Last, but not least, it is also particularly advisable, in the aftermath of these changes, to monitor your clients names in the "new .fr" and check not only for the registration of similar domains by third parties, but also for the use of such registrations, since it is on this point and the subsequent risk of confusion that, as evidenced by French case law, that conflicts may arise.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.