NEW .UK Name Opportunities

Nominet, the national registry for .UK Domain names has announced their intention to allow registration of one character, two letter and other reserved .UK Domain names which are currently not permitted. This is an exciting opportunity potentially opening up valuable new Domains.

Nominet has begun a consultation period on the proposed release lasting until 8 June 2010 and they would like to gather feedback from any stakeholders (including Registrants – so now is your time to speak up!).

This move follows the success at the German Supreme Court in September 2009 of the brand Volkswagen, to allow the registration of vw.de. Volkswagen had argued that the restriction of a minimum of three characters was potentially harmful to their brand and giving an unfair competitive advantage to other car brands such as bmw.de.

Nominet’s Policy Advisory Body (PAB) has recommended that two letter Domain names should be available for registration and a PAB sub-committee has agreed on the principles of how two letter Domain names should be released.

Nominet takes the position that if there is no longer a valid technical or policy reason for a rule, then the rule should be removed. Given that many of these Domains are likely to be highly attractive, they agree that it seems appropriate to follow the PAB recommendation for a controlled sunrise release mechanism.

Lesley Cowley, CEO at Nominet says, “We are committed to ensuring that the release of these short Domains is conducted in an appropriate, responsible and fair manner. We therefore urge all Internet stakeholders including consumers, industry and Government to submit their feedback during the next three months.”

Domain Names Being Released
In terms of policy considerations, the PAB recommended the release of domain names as follows:
(i) One character domains
(ii) All two letter domains not already registered, including existing country codes under ISO 3166-1, such as fr, es, de, apart from “uk”.
(iii) Existing generic top level domains

The PAB were divided on the issue of whether SLDs should continue to be blocked from registration, and suggested that this be the subject of further consultation. Nominet are considering excluding the release of “com”, “net” and “org” from the release in .co.uk because of a technical issue. This issue concerns DNS servers receiving a substantial number of queries not intended for them due to the way search suffixes work for some resolvers, e.g. the holder of com.co.uk receiving information on searches for non-existent domain names in the .com gTLD.

The Release Mechanism
It’s thought that the release will be done as a two phase sunrise mechanism:
Round 1: Applications accepted from holders of registered trademarks recognised and enforceable in the UK that must be identical to the two letter combination applied for.
Round 2: Domain names not taken up in the first round would then be open to holders of unregistered rights.

The PAB recommended a cut off date for qualifying rights, with 1996 (the launch of Nominet) and 2002 (the date of a series of initial discussions regarding the release of two letter Domains) being suggested as possibilities. They are open to stakeholder suggestions for a suitable qualifying cut off date. The PAB has been unable to make a unanimous recommendation for how to allocate Domain names where there are two or more qualifying rights holders, although a lottery, landrush and auction were considered.

Have Your Say!
Feedback can be submitted via an online survey or by emailing shortdomains@nominet.org.uk. Nominet has also put together a page detailing the consultation and lists of likely Domains being released at
www.nominet.org.uk/about/consultations/reservedshortdomains
where you can find a link to an on-line survey for feedback at
www.nominet.org.uk/about/consultations/reservedshortdomains/paper/

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