Thursday, 30 August 2018

.eu domain names after UK withdrawal

Some 317,000 domain names in the .eu top level domain (TLD) are registered to UK holders, who look likely to be inconvenienced (at least) by the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The regulatory framework for the .eu TLD, principally Regulation (EC) No 733/2002, does not permit .eu domain names to be registered by non-EU registrants, as Article 4(2)(b) (as interpreted by the Court of Justice in Case C-276/11 Pie Optiek) makes clear. The Commission's Notice to Stakeholders dated 27 March 2018 makes clear that "[a]s of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date." So that seems like three different ways to say the same thing.

UK registrants will not be eligible to have .eu domain name registrations after E-Day. They will neither be able to register nor renew them. It is not clear whether they will be able to hang on to them until they become due for renewal: EurID can revoke registrations on its own initiative but there are doubts about whether it has sufficient capacity to do much about so many registrations.

There are further ramifications for the .eu TLD arising from the UK's withdrawal. UK rights will no longer count against bad faith registrations - so UK registered trade marks will not give protection against others registering .eu domain names. So long as businesses maintain EU trade marks as well as UK ones, this will not be a problem, but it could be a persuasive reason for registering more trade marks.

Finally, agreements with registrars handling .eu domain registrations will no longer be able to designate UK law, courts, or dispute bodies in their dispute resolution procedures. UK-based registrars will be excluded from handling .eu TLD registrations anyway, but for other registrars who are still in business after E-day this will mean that they might have to change their contract terms.

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