The landrush is on in Gabon's cyberspace

Although Internet penetration in Africa is currently pegged at only around 16%, the growth rate over the past decade has been some 3,000%. This means that trademark owners, especially those doing business in Africa, ignore developments in the continent’s cyberspace environment at their peril.

This is why it is noteworthy that Gabon recently relaunched its '.ga' country-code top-level domain name. As from June 14 2013, the namespace was opened to the international community without restriction and, as is customary, the launch process has sunrise, landrush and general availability phases.

The sunrise phase applies to trademark owners or assignees whose trademarks were registered before April 1 2013 and runs from June 14 until July 15 2013. All other interested parties may apply during the landrush phase running from June 15 until August 31 2013. General availability will commence on September 1 2013.

Domain names are not allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and in the event of a specific domain being applied for by multiple applicants during the relevant phase, the eventual right to register will be decided by an auction process.

Certain general technical and syntax requirements will apply during all three phases, meaning that domain names:

  • can have a length of between 3 and 63 characters;
  • can consist of the letters A-Z and the numerals 0-9, and hyphens;
  • cannot begin or end with a hyphen; and
  • can only have two consecutive hyphens (- -) in the third and fourth positions when preceded by 'xn'.

Trademarks may be shortened or altered to comply with these technical requirements, but a trademark word may not be split. For example, 'MyTrademark' may be reduced to '' but not be split into '' and ''.

Domain names consisting of a single character will attract a far higher annual tariff, with short letter domains (consisting of one, two or three characters), as well as certain common dictionary domains, also commanding a premium over the standard rate.

Jillian Barkley, Spoor & Fisher 

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