Positive renewal procedure will help tidy up '.uk' domain

United Kingdom

Nominet, the registry for the '.uk' country-code top-level domain, has amended its policy to request that all '.uk' domain names be positively renewed every two years in order for their registration to be maintained. This measure marks a shift from the previous system, where Nominet assumed that all '.uk' domain names required renewal - whether or not this was the case and, indeed, whether or not the renewal fee was paid. The new procedure will be implemented on November 1.

Under the new system, domain names that are not positively renewed will be deleted with very little warning. If the renewal fee is not paid within 30 days of Nominet's final notification, the domain name will be suspended for 60 days, after which it will be deleted. Nominet will not notify the registrant after cancellation of the domain name, as it will be assumed that this was the intention of the holder.

The procedure offers various advantages. First, it will enable Nominet to release domain names that are no longer required. (The 60-day grace period, during which the domain names remain on the register prior to cancellation, will (i) serve as a reminder to registrants, and (ii) enable Nominet to avoid inappropriate cancellations.)

Second, it clarifies the nature of domain name registration - that is that registrants never actually own their domain name. Rather, the domain names are merely registered to them for a two-year period, after which holders have the first option to renew the registrations.

Third, it will encourage corporate registrants to ensure that their portfolios are managed actively and sensibly. Registrants will (i) have to adopt a conservative approach to domain name registration, only registering and/or renewing domain names that are appropriate, and (ii) have to monitor their portfolios regularly to ensure that all renewal dates are noted and acted upon in good time, which may prove difficult for brand owners who do not benefit from a centralized management procedure and/or from an employee neutral registration system. This will force registrants to treat their domain name portfolios with the same respect afforded to their other registered intellectual property.

While this new regime has been heralded as the biggest procedural shake-up at Nominet since its inception, it remains to be seen whether it will bring other welcome benefits, such as dissuading non-bona fide registrants (ie, cybersquatters) from renewing their registrations.

Christina Pettit, DLA, London

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