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Existing Country Domains Aren't Subject To New Policy, WIPO Announces

by Robin Pilgrim, LawAndTax-News.com, London

30 May 2003


Holders of existing country domains, such as SouthAfrica.com, and Newzealand.com have welcomed the World Intellectual Property Organisation's (WIPO) decision, earlier this month, not to extend additional domain name protections retroactively.

In November 2002, the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Geographical Indications and Industrial Designs (SCT) announced that the short and long names of States (as designated in the United Nations Terminology Bulletin), should be protected against misleadingly similar or identical registrations as domain names by persons or organisations unconnected with the authorities of the States concerned.

However, it was not until a meeting held earlier this month to discuss the revision of the International Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) that the SCT decided not to recommend to ICANN that protection of country names be extended retroactively.

Reporting on this decision, internet news service, Demys.net observed that:

'The consequences of the SCT decision are considerable. All existing registrants of country names in the domain space would appear to be safe from a 'new' UDRP complaint which might be raised by the government of the country concerned when the changes are implemented.'

'For example, Virtual Companies Inc., registrant of SouthAfrica.com, will be greatly relieved that a further avenue of attack has been denied to the South African government, who continue to argue that a sovereign state should have the right to hold its own name in the Domain name system.


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