Businesses Should Check IE Domain Name Entitlement before the Rules Change in March

"Possession is nine tenths of the law when it comes to domain names" - Blacknight CEO

The rules for IE domain names will change in March, and Ireland's leading domain registrar, Blacknight, is advising businesses to take the opportunity to check their entitlement to the domain of their choice. 

From March, it will be easier to register an IE domain name, as registrants will no longer be required to demonstrate that they have a “claim to the name”. 

They'll still have to show that they have a connection to Ireland, but questions about why they want to register a particular domain name will no longer apply. 

Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon has welcomed the change, which is broadly supported by the domain industry in Ireland, and by a majority of those who took part in a public consultation last year. 

"It's going to be easier for businesses to register any name they want", he explains. "Whether for a product or a PR campaign, if the name is available, you can register it". 

The old rule is off-putting for many people, he believes. The "claim to the name" is antiquated and, more importantly, ineffective. 

"Ostensibly, it was supposed to prevent 'cybersquatting' – in fact, it is easily circumvented if you are determined to register a domain name in bad faith." 

Under the current rules, registrants must declare that they have a legitimate interest in a domain name, for example, that it corresponds to the name of their business, product, club or organisation – or it is a personal name. But the requirement can be satisfied by adding a couple of sentences to your online application, explaining why you want a particular domain name, and what you will use it for.  It’s a formality which doesn’t carry any weight in legal terms, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s being removed. 

“Instances of cybersquatting in the IE domain have been few, but we don’t believe that the claim requirement has been a significant factor in that”, says Neylon. 

That’s because intellectual property rights are a much more complex issue than can be addressed with a simple declaration. 

“It’s not just about trademarks and copyright. It’s also about goodwill and common law rights and legitimate interests, questions which have to be weighed up by legal experts”. 

He points to the well-established IE Dispute Resolution Procedure (IEDRP), which is run under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). 

“Ultimately, the parties have recourse to the courts if they wish", says Neylon, "but IEDRP is a fairly simple and cost-effective process which has proved quite effective”. 

Its real benefit, in his opinion, is that it puts the consideration of intellectual property rights in its proper place, that is: in an expert forum, and only in the case where an actual grievance is alleged. 

“The old claim-to-the-name requirement is like putting the cart before the horse”, he explains. “It was like saying ‘scouts honour – I’m entitled to this domain’. In most cases, the registrant is entitled to the domain, but the question really shouldn’t arise unless there’s a challenge.” 

So could the removal of the claim requirement lead to speculative domain registrations? 

“That’s highly unlikely. But if someone wants to register a domain name relating to a half-cooked idea of a project they might launch – or just because they like the name – and if the name is available, then why not?” 

The IE domain registry, he points out, is massively undersubscribed by industry standards, with just over 237,000 domain names (as opposed to 129 million .COM domain names). 

“You might have a ‘claim’ to a domain name under the current rules, but depending on circumstances, other people may also have a legitimate claim, especially for generic non-branded terms (e.g. cheese, hair or dance). 

"What is likely to happen is that the relaxed rules will lead to an increased interest in IE domain names, especially for names involving generic keywords. And the key point here is that possession is nine tenths of the law when it comes to domain names. 

“The WIPO rules are explicit. A domain registration may be forfeit if it has been registered in bad faith, and without a legitimate claim, and where it might cause confusion with protected identifiers. But if a registrant defends any one of those charges successfully, then the registration is valid". 

"Removing the claim-to-the-name condition won't change the law on intellectual property rights, but now is a good time for businesses to consider their entitlement to a .IE domain name, as a part of their branding and intellectual property strategy. Our experience shows that a domain name enhances your brand and boosts your marketing and reputation for just a few cents per day".

 

So, should businesses be apprehensive about the proposed rule change? "Absolutely not", says Neylon. "Scaremongering is unhelpful. I don't want you to be scared to drive: I just want you to wear a seat-belt." 

"What there is now is an opportunity for businesses to stake their claim to a particular keyword, knowing that there might be increased interest in that word, from other legitimate interests after March. 

"My hope would be that this will act as a spur to development, like a 'vacant site levy' in the case of real estate. There are lots of potentially great IE domain names unregistered at present. If you want to use one, go ahead and claim it, but if not, don't complain if someone else does". 

ENDS

Spokesperson

"What is likely to happen is that the relaxed rules will lead to an increased interest in IE domain names, especially for names involving generic keywords. And the key point here is that possession is nine tenths of the law when it comes to domain names." 

Michele Neylon, CEO, Blacknight

"Removing the claim-to-the-name condition won't change the law on intellectual property rights, but now is a good time for businesses to consider their entitlement to a .IE domain name, as a part of their branding and intellectual property strategy. Our experience shows that a domain name enhances your brand and boosts your marketing and reputation for just a few cents per day". 

Michele Neylon, CEO, Blacknight

"Scaremongering is unhelpful. I don't want you to be scared to drive: I just want you to wear a seat-belt."

Michele Neylon, CEO, Blacknight
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About Blacknight

Blacknight (http://www.blacknight.com/) are an Irish based, ICANN accredited domain registrar and hosting company. Recipients of several awards for their revolutionary use of social media, Blacknight are one of Europe’s most cutting edge Internet companies. Blacknight constantly seek to lead the way by introducing innovative solutions for its client base and provide dedicated servers and co-location as well as a comprehensive range of Microsoft Windows and Linux based hosting plans and domain name registration services to business globally. IP transit services and other solutions for more demanding business and academic customers are offered a la carte.