Growth in '.eu' domain names as extension celebrates sixth anniversary

European Union

‘.eu’ is the top-level domain (TLD) for the European Union. According to the latest quarterly progress report from EURid, the ‘.eu’ registry, at the end of 2011 there were a total of 3.5 million ‘.eu’ registered domain names, representing growth of 5.5% when compared with the fourth quarter of 2010. 

Registrations also increased in 23 of the 27 EU member states, and the strongest growth during the fourth quarter in 2011 was in Malta (8.6%), Austria (7.2%) and France (6.6%). EURid also saw annual growth of over 10% recorded in 11 EU countries, specifically Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

In addition, some 81.6% of registered ‘.eu’ domain names were renewed in 2011. This renewal rate was consistent with the 2010 renewal rate of 81.7%, as well as a renewal rate of over 80% for the past five years. EURid's general manager, Marc Van Wesemael commented that "the strong renewal rate for 2011 shows that end-users have a sustained interest in renewing their ‘.eu’ domain names", and added that the annual growth rate was "a notable achievement, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing global economic crisis".

Such positive results could not have come at a more opportune moment, given that on April 7 2012 ‘.eu’ celebrated the sixth anniversary of its launch.    

EURid was appointed to manage the ‘.eu’ extension by the European Commission and applications for ‘.eu’ domain names were initially accepted on a limited basis in December 2005. This sunrise period was open only to organisations and individuals within the European Union who could prove that they had prior rights (valid under EU law) in a particular name, such as a national or Community trademark matching the domain name applied for. According to EURid, more than 245,000 ‘.eu’ domain names were applied for during this period.

The landrush period opened on April 7 2006, meaning that ‘.eu’ domain names were made publicly available on a first-come, first-served basis to organisations and individuals within the European Union. During the first month after the launch, an impressive 1.7 million domain names were registered. 

Today the ‘.eu’ TLD is one of the top 10 TLDs in the world, along with ‘.de’ (Germany), ‘.uk’ (United Kingdom) and ‘.cn’ (China).

Interestingly enough, even though ‘.eu’ was launched six years ago, not all issues relating to the registration rules have been resolved, and one case in particular is still pending before the European Court of Justice: Case C-376/11, known as Pie Optiek. The case is a referral from the Brussels Court of Appeal and relates to whether it is acceptable for a company with no EU presence to licence its EU trademark rights to an EU-based company (such as an IP agent, registrar or other service provider) purely for the purpose of registering a ‘.eu’ domain name. The outcome will be eagerly awaited by many in the domain name industry.  

David Taylor, Tony Vitali and Jane Seager, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

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