Second sunrise for ‘.uk’ short domain names now open

United Kingdom
Nominet, the registry for ‘.uk’ domain names, is in the process of releasing various one and two-character domain names under the extensions ‘.co.uk’, ‘org.uk’, ‘.net.uk’ and ‘.me.uk’.
 
At the moment, many top-level domains (TLDs) do not allow one and two-character domain names to be registered. It was generally thought that allowing the registration of two-letter domain names at the second or third level may cause confusion, especially given the fact that the two-letter codes published by the International Organisation for Standardisation are used to designate country-code TLDs on the internet. However, it is now generally accepted that, technically, there is no reason why one and two-character domain names cannot be made available for registration. In this regard, a number of TLD registries have recently allowed the release of such domain names (eg, ‘.biz’ and ‘.mobi’), and more are set to follow.
 
One and two-character domain names are usually very expensive on the domain name aftermarket, given that there are only a finite number of them. Therefore, when they are released by registries, they are highly sought after and competition to obtain them is usually tough. In order to try and ensure an orderly and fair release, Nominet is organising the ‘.uk’ release in stages. The first sunrise period ended on January 17 2011 and was intended for the holders of registered trademarks enforceable in the United Kingdom exactly corresponding to the required domain name and in force as of January 1 2008. Evidence of good-faith use in the United Kingdom on or before January 1 2008 was also required.
 
These rather strict rules aimed to prevent cybersquatters from effectively gaming the system and registering trademarks specifically for the purpose of obtaining valuable domain names. This is something that has been widely prevalent in the launch of previous domain name extensions, such as ‘.eu’. The rules appear to have had the intended effect, as the 99 domain names obtained during the first sunrise period seem mainly to have been registered by major brand owners for genuine use, as opposed to domainers or cybersquatters with a view to a lucrative onward sale - for example, British Airways has obtained ‘ba.co.uk’, The Football Association ‘fa.co.uk’, The Open University ‘ou.co.uk’ and Virgin Enterprises Ltd ‘v.co.uk’.
 
The second sunrise period opened on February 14 2011 and will run until March 16 2011. This is intended for:
  • any entity which would have qualified for the first sunrise, but missed the application deadline; and
  • the holders of unregistered trademarks enforceable in the United Kingdom exactly corresponding to the required domain name and in force as of January 1 2008.
Evidence of good-faith use in the United Kingdom (in the case of a registered trademark) or of goodwill existing by reference to the sign (in the case of an unregistered trademark) on or before January 1 2008 must be provided (to the satisfaction of an independent assessor).
 
The first and second sunrise periods will be followed by a landrush period, which will be a period of open application, enabling interested parties to apply for domain names not registered during the two sunrise periods. If there are multiple qualifying applicants (in any particular period), the domain name in question will be sold to the highest bidder at auction. Any profits will go to the Nominet Trust, which is a charity founded to provide support to organisations and projects working to increase access to the internet, online safety and education.
 
David Taylor, Tony Vitali and Jane Seager, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

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