Adventures with Foreign Domain Names

In addition to obtaining an Internet domain name registration in one of the generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .net, and .org, a company can obtain domain name registrations in national (or country code) Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) and their subdomains.[1] A fictitious example is www.abc.co.uk , in which .uk is the ccTLD for the United Kingdom and .co is the abbreviation for the subdomain "commercial organization."

In the above example, abc often is referred to as the third-level domain, .co as the second-level domain, and .uk as the toplevel domain. Each country has been assigned a two-letter extension. An alphabetical list of many of the country code extensions is shown in Figure 1. Many national domain name registrars have established their own second-level domains for their countries. Israel (country extension .il), for example, has established ac.il (for academic institutions), k12.il (for kindergartens and elementary and high schools), .muni.il (for municipal and local government authorities), and .net (for Internet Service Providers holding a valid Internet operating license from the Ministry of Communications). The European Union Council of Telecommunications Ministers recently adopted a Regulation establishing a new .eu domain to free pan-European business from having to tie themselves to a specific European country's domain.

Eligibility in Foreign Countries

Different restrictions and requirements can apply in many national domains (ccTLDs) that do not apply to generic TLDs. To determine whether a foreign domain name registration is available in a particular country, the questions set out below should be asked. It should be noted that in many countries there has been very little litigation on domain name registration issues, and thus there is often very little decisional law to provide guidance with respect to advanced domain name issues. The global trend, however, is to resolve disputes in favor of the trademark owner when another person or entity seeks a domain name using the same mark.

Is Residency or Local Presence Required to Obtain a Registration?

Some countries require that a natural person must be a resident of the country and that a company must be registered in or have a local presence in the country in order to obtain a country-level domain name. [2] In some cases, foreign companies may register if they have a local agent, as for example, in Brazil, where the appointment of a local attorney will suffice if the attorney has the power to register, cancel, and transfer title to the domain name as well as change the designation of the individual who represents the company to the registration authority, and in Chile, where a foreign entity can obtain a registration through a third party domiciled in the country.

In a few instances, countries that formerly required local presence no longer do so (for example, Belgium and Germany). Some countries, such as Sweden, issue domain names only to domestic commercial businesses. In Italy, only EU companies or individuals are eligible for a domain name registration, and a business entity must have a VAT registration in its own country and an individual must have a fiscal code. To obtain an Indian ccTLD, the domain server must be located in India. New Zealand allows non-residents to obtain domain name registrations, provided that an individual applicant is over 18 years of age and that business entities are properly constituted entities.

It is important to note that specific and often-unexpected requirements and restrictions apply in certain foreign countries, and therefore the particular rules of each country must be checked. Brazil again provides an example: Its rules provide that a domain name registration will be deemed to lapse if it is not used within 180 days.

Are Multiple Registrations Allowed?

Some countries do not permit a company to have more than one domain name registration (e.g. , Finland). In other countries, multiple registrations are available but in some cases only if certain conditions or eligibility requirements are satisfied. Brazil permits an individual to have single registration and a business entity to have up to 10 registrations, which is a common set of limitations. Figure 1 also indicates whether a country permits multiple third level domain name registrations.

Is the Domain Name Limited to the Applicant's Trade Name or Trademark?

In Norway, the domain name must be the applicant's company trade name and cannot be the name of a product sold by the company. In certain countries, the domain name of the applicant must be the same as a registered trademark owned by the applicant. Others, such as the Netherlands and Singapore, do not require a trademark registration but require an affirmation in the domain name registration application that the proposed domain name does not infringe the trademark rights of a third party.

In Finland, the domain name must be based on the registered trade name of the applicant, its auxiliary or parallel trade name, or a Finish or EC trademark registration. India requires that the applicant prove ownership of the domain name through ownership of an Indian trademark registration (or a trademark registration application accompanied by a clean search report) or a company name registered in India.

Figure 1: Foreign Domain Name Registration and Local Presence Requirements

Country

Local
Presence*

Multiple Domain
Name Registrations

Albania (al)

Required

Not allowed

Andorra (ad)

Not Required

Not Allowed

Armenia (am)

Not Required

Allowed

Australia (au)

Required

Not Allowed

Austria (at)

Not Required

Allowed

Belarus (by)

Required

Not Allowed

Belgium (be)

Not Required

Allowed

Brazil (br)

Required

Allowed with justification

Bulgaria (bg)

Not Required

Not Allowed

Canada (ca)

Required

Not Allowed

Chile (cl)

Not Required

Not Allowed

Colombia (co)

Not Available

Not Available

Croatia (hr)

Required

Not Allowed

Czech Rep. (cz)

Required

Allowed

Denmark (dk)

Required

Allowed

Estonia (ee)

Not Required

Allowed with justification

Faroe Is. (fo)

Required

Not Available

Finland (fi)

Required

Not Allowed

France (fr)

Required

Not Allowed

Georgia (ge)

Required

Not Allowed

Germany (de)

Not Required

Allowed

Greece (gr)

Required

Not Allowed

Greenland (gl)

Required

Not Available

Hong Kong (hk)

Required

Allowed

Hungary (hu)

Required

Allowed

Iceland (is)

Required

Not Allowed

India (in)

Not Required

Allowed for trademarks
if trademark owned

Indonesia (id)

Required

Allowed

Ireland (ie)

Substantive
Nexus Required

Not Allowed

Isle of Man (im)

Not Required

Allowed

Israel (il)

Not Required

Allowed. Max. 10 per
organization

Italy (it)

EU status
required

Not Allowed

Japan (jp)

Required

Not Allowed

Lebanon (lb)

Required

Allowed with justification

 

 

 

Country

Local
Presence*

Multiple Domain
Name Registrations

Liberia (lr)

Required

Allowed

Liechtenstein (li)

Not Required

Allowed

Lithuania (lt)

Required

Not Allowed

Luxembourg (lu)

Not Required

Not Allowed

Madagascar (mg)

Required

Not Allowed

Malta (mt)

Not Required

Not Allowed

Mexico (mx)

Not Required

Allowed

Moldova (md)

Not Required

Allowed

Monaco (mc)

Required

Not Allowed

Netherlands (nl)

Required

Allowed

New Zealand (nz)

Not Required

Allowed

Norway (no)

Required

Not Allowed

Peru (pe)

Required

Not Allowed

Philippines (ph)

Not Required

Allowed

Poland (pl)

Required

May register subsidiaries
but not product names
or advertising slogans

Portugal (pt)

Required

Allowed

Romania (ro)

Not Required

Allowed

Russia (ru)

Not Required for
com.ru

Allowed

Singapore (sg)

Required

Allowed

Slovakia (sk)

Required

Allowed. Max. five.

Slovenia (si)

Required

Not Allowed

South Africa (za)

Not Required

Allowed

Spain (es)

Required

Not Allowed

Sweden (se)

Required

Not Allowed

Switzerland (ch)

Not Required

Allowed

Taiwan (tw)

Required

Allowed

Thailand (th)

Required

Not Allowed

Tonga (to)

Not Required

Allowed

Turkey (tr)

Not Required

Allowed

Ukraine (ua)

Required

Not Allowed

UAE (ae)

Required

Allowed

UK (uk)

Not Required

Allowed

US (us)

Required

Allowed

Venezuela (ve)

Not Required

Allowed

Yugoslavia (yu)

Required

Not Allowed

 

*"Required" includes a requirement of a local agent when local presence is not otherwise required. See each country's rules for specific details, as there are individual variations. Source of chart is www.allwhois.com, e-Commerce in 20 Jurisdictions Worldwide (Law Business research) and information from local counsel. Not all countries in the world are listed.

 

 

 

What Is the Domain Name Registration Fee?

Some countries impose very high fees (for example, US $ 400 in the Congo), while the fees in other countries are low enough to encourage bulk registrations by cybersquatters (for example, #5 in the United Kingdom).

How Are Domain Name Disputes Resolved?

Some countries have bodies similar to the ICANN Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). In Canada, for instance, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) Dispute Resolution Policy (CDRP) is based on the UDRP. While recovery under the URDP requires bad faith registration and use, the CDRP requires only a bad faith registration, as it is essentially aimed at cybersquatting rather than at other type of disputes. In some countries, UDRP awards can be appealed in local courts. Other countries, such as Ireland, have not adopted the ICANN UDRP or their own dispute resolution procedures; therefore, disputes are resolved in court.

Commercialization of Fortuitous Domain Names

The two-letter country code for Tuvalu, an island nation in the Pacific is .tv. This gives Tuvalu a fortuitous country code that it has exploited commercially. Since 1988, the country of Tuvalu has sold the right to issue .tv domain names to private companies that have served as managers/delegees for the government. This was done because of the special value of the .tv extension to domain name owners in the television industry. VeriSign acquired the rights to do this in January 2002 by acquiring .tv Corporation as a wholly owned subsidiary. Interestingly, .tv Corporation has designated certain domain names as premium domain names and offers them at a higher price than other names. For example, sports.tv was given a yearly registration fee of US $1 million, while the fees for boating.tv and sail.tv were set at $750,000 each.

The ".md" extension for the Republic of Moldova has appeal for becoming a special domain for physicians. Moldova signed an agreement with dotMD Inc., an Atlanta-based company, to be the exclusive registrar for the .md country domain.

Reprinted from Journal of Internet Law, Volume 6, Number 8, February 2003.


Copyright 2002 by William A. Tanenbaum. All rights reserved.


NOTES

[1] In addition to these gTLDs, the following new gTLDs have recently been established: .areo (air transport industry); .biz (business organizations); .coop (cooperatives registered with a cooperative membership association); .info (unrestricted use); museum (accredited museums); .name (individuals); and .pro (accountants, lawyers and physicians). The special Top- Level Domains (sTLDs) are .edu, .gov., int., and .mil.

[2] The source for the information printed in this section is www.allwhois.com, e-Commerce in 20 Jurisdictions Worldwide (Law Business Research) and information provided by local attorneys in foreign jurisdictions.