New ‘.ee’ domain name registration rules give mark owners a break

Estonia
On March 17 2010 Eesti Interneti SA, the Estonian Internet Foundation, approved new registration rules for '.ee' domain names.
 
In January 2007 EeNet, the '.ee' domain name administrator, had announced its plans to relax the '.ee' domain name registration rules (for further details please see "'.ee' domain name registration rules relaxed"). However, it took more than three years for the new registration rules to be approved.
 
The planned launch date for the implementation of the new rules was May 1 2010, but this has now been postponed until the system is ready to run. The most optimistic forecast is that the new rules will come into force in June 2010. The current rules will thus continue to apply until the new regime is in place.
 
The current rules prevent many interested parties from registering their trademarks and company names under the ‘.ee’ country-code top-level domain. However, the new rules will lift those restrictions.
 
The most important changes can be summarized as follows:
  • The local presence requirement will be abandoned and, therefore, foreign parties will be able to register '.ee' domain names. However, the local presence requirement will remain for the registrant's administrative contact.
  • Both natural and legal persons will be able to register '.ee' domain names. Previously, only legal persons and natural persons registered for business in the Commercial register were allowed to register '.ee' domain names.
  • The general rule according to which one domain name only is allowed per person will be abolished. It is no longer possible to grant exceptions under the current rules.
  • The current one-level registration system will be replaced by a two-level system. The Estonian Internet Foundation will carry out the tasks of central registry, but the domain name holders will have to ask a service provider (registrar) to register the domain name in the Domain Name Register.
  • The registration and maintenance of domain names will no longer be free of charge. The Estonian Internet Foundation will charge registrars €18 per domain name per year.
  • The Estonian Internet Foundation, which was established by the Estonian Ministry of Economics and Telecommunications and the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications, will take over the functions of EeNet.
  • Currently, disputes involving unlawful domain name registrations are subject to civil court jurisdiction. However, it is hoped that dispute resolution mechanisms will be established in the near future.
Due to several reasons, including the impossibility to combine the current domain name system with transitional rules, it is possible that there will be no sunriseperiod for IP rights holders - notwithstanding the fact that the relaxing of the registration rules will dramatically increase the risk of cybersquatting.
 
It is expected that only a one-month notice will be given before the new rules and/or the sunrise period are launched (if there is a sunrise period).
 
Therefore, it is crucial that trademark owners register their trademarks as domain names under '.ee' as soon as the new rules take effect. However, this will represent a good opportunity for trademark owners that were unable to register their marks due to the restrictive nature of the current rules to secure a registration under '.ee'.
 
Almar Sehver, AAA Legal Services, Tallinn

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