UK: New Domain Names To Be Released During 2001

Last Updated: 1 June 2001
Article by Nick Fenner

Background

The organisation that administers the allocation of Top Level Domain (TLD) names such as .com is releasing seven new internet top level domains which are expected to be operational in the second or third quarter of 2001.

The introduction of the new TLDs presents opportunities for businesses to acquire attractive and memorable internet addresses, but also opens the door to a new generation of opportunistic "cyber squatters".

The New Domains

The new TLDs and their intended purposes are listed below.

New Domain Name

Intended For Use By

.biz

Businesses

.coop

Cooperatives

.aero

Air-transport industry

.info

Unrestricted use

.museum

Museums

.name

For registration by individuals

.pro

Accountants, lawyers, and physicians

Further information about the new TLDs can be found at www.icann.org/tlds.

Can A New Domain Name Be Reserved?

There is no procedure for pre-registering the new domain names. The US Federal Trade Commission has issued a consumer alert warning about "scam artists" charging fees for promising to secure new domain names.

The registry administering the allocation of the new .biz domain names offers a watching service which will alert Trade Mark owners if a third party attempts to register a . biz domain name which is identical to an existing Trade Mark. For details see (www.newstar.com).

The registry administering the allocation of the new .info domain names is offering Trade Mark owners a priority registration period. For details of the scheme see (www.afilias.com).

Other agencies are offering reports on the likelihood of attaining particular names in the new TLDs, together with a estimate for the cost of the registrations. See for example the Virtual Internet plc site at www.vi.net.

What Can Be Done If Someone Registers The .Biz Version Of My .Com Or .Co.Uk Domain Name?

There is no automatic precedence given to the owner of an existing domain name. However, the same rules that have been developed in relation to .com domains and other TLDs are likely to apply to the new domain names. Under those rules it should be possible to require a person who has speculatively registered the name of an existing business as a domain name to transfer it if it can be shown that it was registered in bad faith i.e. with a deliberate intention to sell it on at a profit or trade off the reputation and existing business. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may also be possible to bring an action in the courts for trade mark infringement or passing off.

Comment

  1. it remains to be seen whether the new tlds will be as universally accepted as the .com and whether the specialist categories will become an important factor in achieving a listing in a ranked search.
  2. The obvious risk of not applying for or securing a registration of certain of the new tlds to mirror existing domain names and trade marks is that someone else may register and use the new domain names. This could potentially cause confusion and ultimately be detrimental to a business operating on-line. Although there are procedures for forcing the transfer of domain names registered in bad faith, it can often be difficult to prove bad faith and the cost of recovering the name can be much higher than the cost of securing the name in the first place.

This Update is produced by Watson, Farley & Williams. It provides a summary of a recent development of internet practice, but is not intended to give specific legal advice.

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