April 25, 2019

New regulation of .eu domains

Entry into force of the new Regulation (EU) 2019/517 of 19 March 2019 on the implementation and functioning of .eu top level domain names. This rule repeals the previous regulation of 2002 and provides for a more flexible eligibility criteria for “.eu” domain ownership, with the extension of legitimacy to all natural persons who are nationals of a Member State, regardless of whether they are resident or domiciled in the EU. Although the full applicability of the rule will not be possible until 2022, due to the different acts and procedures of legislative development that will be necessary, the extension of the legitimacy criteria will be applicable from 19 October 2019.

The .eu domains constitute one of the ccTLD extensions – commonly known as territorial top level domains – with a great global impact, as evidenced by the 3.8 million registrations reached in 2017. In spite of its success, the EU has deemed it appropriate to deepen its regulation and improve certain aspects in order to make it more accessible to small businesses, professionals and citizens in general, to create a true digital identity for the EU and to promote cross-border online activities. And all this in the context of the Digital Single Market, the second of the EU’s ten strategic priority projects for the years 2015-2019.

From the perspective of Intellectual Property, the protection conferred by a trademark is often confused with that of a domain name, despite being two realities with very different regulations. The trademark grants a legal monopoly of exploitation within a delimited territorial scope, while the domain name is an alphanumeric address (DNS) of a given online resource (URL) or website, which is configured according to certain technical protocols defined by ICANN, the international body for governance of domain names. With the progressive digitalization of our society, it has been attributed some of the values or features which are characteristic of trademarks or trade names in the digital environment although it is not the specific legal figure to develop such a function. As a result, this has caused several disputes and controversies regarding abusive registration practices by unauthorized third parties. It is therefore essential that the different economic operators are well aware of these differences and adopt appropriate protection and prevention policies in their trademark strategy.