PPR clear way for implementation of '.eu' TLD

European Union

The European Commission has at last published the Public Policy Rules (PPR) relating to the '.eu' top-level domain (TLD).

The PPR provide that registration of '.eu' domain names is reserved for EU businesses, organizations and citizens. Natural persons have to be resident in one of the EU member states; undertakings qualify if they have their registered office, central administration or principal place of business in the European Union and organizations need to be established in the European Union, regardless of their governing law.

There are no further restrictions as to who may apply. Registration will be carried out on a first come, first served basis. However, holders of prior rights established or recognized by national or Community law will be eligible to register related domain names during a four-month sunrise period, tentatively set to start in December 2004. This will follow the appointment in the summer of national registrars by EURid, the manager of the '.eu' TLD.

The sunrise period will be divided into two phases of two months. During the first phase, only holders of registered trademarks and geographical indications, and public bodies (eg, cities, communities, districts and international public organizations) may apply.

In the second phase, those admitted in the first phase and owners of company names and other protected signs, and licensees of established or recognized rights may apply. (As most EU national laws recognize individuals' rights in their name, every natural person may potentially take part in that phase.)

Registrations during the sunrise period will consist of the complete name in which the applicant holds prior rights. However, public bodies may register their full name and its acronym. Where public bodies are responsible for governing a particular geographical territory, they may register the name of that territory or the name under which it is commonly known. Applicants must submit proof of their prior rights within 40 days of applying for a domain name to validate their registration.

Rights owners may find it difficult to comply with this requirement, especially if they claim unregistered trademark rights. Also, there may be conflicts with rights protected by the national law of one of the new EU member states. Conflicts between parties equally eligible for prior registration (eg, owners of identical trademarks that are - without conflict - protected under different national laws) will be solved under the first come, first served principle.

Careful and timely preparation of applications for registration is advisable. Businesses and other rights owners should act quickly to decide which domain names they want to register in the '.eu' TLD, research the rights situation in each case and prepare the necessary documents.

For background information on the '.eu' TLD, see '.eu' TLD launch delayed - again, '.eu' TLD set to go live in November and '.eu' registry warns businesses to steer clear of unaccredited registrars.

Julia Meuser, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hamburg

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