Pssst! Want to pre register your .biz domain name before the rush?
Topic: Domain names
Who: Trading Standards
When: March 2001
ICANN, the body with overall responsibility for the internet domain name system, recently announced its intention to add seven more top level domain name suffixes ("tlds") to the existing .com .net and .org. However, ICANN’s initial indication that the new tlds would be available by Spring 2001 is looking less and less likely. Senate hearings have focused on what many regard as the less than satisfactory way in which the seven new names were provisionally decided and allocated. The contracts with the putative new registries have yet to be signed and litigation could be in the offing, involving disappointed applicants for the coveted role of new tld registry.
This delay, as well as the European Commission’s continuing campaign to create a ".eu" tld, has led to a rash of "pre-registration" deals being advertised. Understood by many as a way of ensuring first place in the queue when .aero .biz .museum .web .coop .pro .info and .name become available, organisations are now taking deposits or in some cases non returnable administration fees, of say £35 per name to "pre-register" domain names with the new suffixes. Some are even offering pre-registration of .eu, which does not yet seem to have appeared on ICANN’s radar, let alone been one of the seven recently proposed.
None of these pre registration bodies has official ICANN sanction to offer this service, so there can be no guarantee that pre registration with them will assure its owner of favourable treatment if and when the new tlds come on stream. Hence the interest of UK Trading Standards Officers in what in some cases may be Trade Descriptions Act offences at the very least.
Why this matters:
Clearly it is less than satisfactory that there should be such uncertainty and delay over the new tlds, but if "pre-registration" of domain names will not necessarily work, what about trade mark registration? Many brand owners are applying internationally to register trade marks consisting of their brands and each of the seven new suffixes. If SNIBBO.museum is a registered trade mark, goes the theory, the registration can be used to stop a third party registering the equivalent new domain name. Already thousands of such applications have been filed in the US and the same is happening in the UK and the rest of Europe. Before taking this step, however, brand owners must consider carefully the chances of ultimately getting such a mark registered. In many cases, the inclusion of a suffix such as .eu or .museum or .biz will not be seen as adding sufficiently distinctive matter to a brand to make it non generic and registrable.