Pre-Registering Internationalized Domain Names

December 28, 2009

Companies and organizations are now allowed to register international domain names (IDNs) that consist of non-Latin characters in two-letter or abbreviated country names in languages such as Cyrillic, Korean Hangeul, Arabic and Chinese. Also available is registration for Latin diacritical characters like accents and umlauts.

Although the process for approving such domains only opened on November 16, 2009 and no such domains have yet been approved, several country code domain name registries that have applied to establish IDN ccTLDs have announced their acceptance of pre-applications for registration of domain names, including Egypt (alleged to be the first full-fledged IDNs registry for .مصر (or Latin “.masr” meaning “Egypt”)) and Russia. The Russian registry has also announced its acceptance of applications to register domains in Cyrillic lettering – so-called IDN.IDN domain names.

While it is not clear how widespread the registration and use of IDNs will be, companies with significant presence in countries or regions adopting IDNs, and those with plans to have such a presence, should consider registration for both their Web site and domain names because the expected cost of registration is far less than the cost of challenging third party registrations. For example, the Russian registry for the proposed .рф (Cyrillic .RF) IDN has announced that owners of Russian trademark registrations or international registrations extended to Russia for marks in Cyrillic characters can register domain names on a priority basis during a sunrise period from November 25, 2009 to March 25, 2010. Owners of such marks should consider registering them now as the expected cost of registration is far less than the cost of challenging third party registrations.

As of December 10, 2009, domain names consisting of non-Latin characters can be registered in the .EU domain. These domain names consist both of non-Latin characters (such as Cyrillic, Greek, or Arabic), and characters which include diacritical marks. Registration of non-Latin names in the .EU domain is particularly significant in light of the fact that European Union trademark use and registration extends to 27 countries with 27 official languages. Domain names will be registered on a “first come, first served” basis, rather than being preceded by a sunrise period. Companies with significant presence in the European Union should also consider applying for registration as early as possible.

Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP attorneys can assist in reviewing companies’ domain name portfolios and strategies, provide assistance in obtaining registration, and institute domain name watch and protection programs. Marshall, Gerstein & Borun can provide a full range of international and IDN registration services.

For further information on trademark or intellectual property matters or to discuss registering your company’s trademarks as domain names, please visit our Internet and Cyberlaw Web page.