Afilias challenges improper '.info' registrations

International

Afilias, the company that operates the new '.info' domain registry, recently changed its policies to enable it to more easily invalidate suspect registrations made prior to the registry's launch. The '.info' top-level domain became accessible in October 2001. The company, however, began accepting domain name registrations from valid trademark holders in July last year. Soon after the so-called sunrise registration period began, critics claimed that unscrupulous speculators had registered thousands of domain names using other parties' trademarks. A subsequent investigation by Afilias found that as many as 20% of the sunrise registrations were invalid.

Afilias's existing policy enables anyone to challenge an allegedly invalid sunrise registration through a special arbitration process. Private individuals and entities have filed approximately 700 challenges thus far. The new rules require anyone who wishes to register a successfully challenged domain name to present proof of his/her trademark ownership in the form of a valid trademark registration certificate. This change is designed to block one fraudulent applicant from capturing a domain name from another fraudulent applicant.

In addition to the increased burden of proof placed on claimants, Afilias has also given its affiliate registrars the ability to correct contact and trademark data contained in Afilias's WHOIS database of domain name registrants. Affiliate registrars may now delete invalid domain names that were registered during the sunrise period without Afilias's direct involvement.

Along with the rules changes, Afilias will submit a bulk arbitration challenge against all remaining '.info' domain name registrations that appear to be facially invalid. Domain names that arbitrators determine to have been invalidly registered will be made available to the public early this year.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York

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