AFNIC creates priority registration period for trademarks

France

Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération (AFNIC), the registry for the country-code top-level domain '.fr', has adopted a quasi-priority period for holders of French trademarks that are in the process of being registered. This is to help trademark applicants secure '.fr' domain names before the registration rules are relaxed on May 11.

Under this priority registration system, it is enough for a trademark to have been applied for, even if it is still under examination and has not yet been registered. In addition, the requested domain name need not be identical to the entire trademark but may instead correspond to one or two words from the trademark.

From May 11 anyone listed in an official online national database (ie, companies, self-employed individuals or associations listed in the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques directory) may register '.fr' domain names, regardless of whether they hold or have applied for a trademark in that name. Later in the year the right to register a '.fr' domain name will be extended to every individual and legal entity that has a link with France, regardless of whether they are listed online. It is hoped that this change in policy will enable AFNIC to fully automate its domain name registration system.

There are some fears that this first come, first served approach will lead to an increased number of cybersquatting cases. It is hoped that an arbitration system will be established later this year in order to provide a simple way of contesting bad-faith domain name registrations.

For the moment, foreign companies as well as French companies should take advantage of this priority period and register domain names corresponding to their trademark (whether registered or merely applied for) before May 11.

Eugenie Chaumont, Inlex Conseil, Paris

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