The European Commission recently issued a “Notice to Stakeholders” (here) highlighting that, in the absence of any transitional arrangement, the regulatory framework governing .eu top level domain names will cease to apply to the UK as of 30 March 2019, the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The stated effect of this is that as things stand:
- UK entities and residents will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew .eu domains post-Brexit;
- the Registry for .eu domains, EURid, may take action of its own volition to revoke any domains which are found to be held by registrants who no longer meet the eligibility criteria post Brexit, with no recourse to appeal;
- It will no longer be possible to invoke a UK right, such as a UK trade mark, in recovery proceedings taken against a speculative or abusive .eu domain name registration;
- Registrars who sell on.eu domains will be obliged to ensure that agreements with registrants of .eu domains designate an applicable law of one of the EU-27 countries, and to amend any existing agreements for which the applicable law is currently UK law.
It is estimated that there are over 300,000 .eu domain names registered to UK holders currently. We recommend that clients act now to audit their domain name portfolios and identify any .eu domains registered to UK based entities or individuals. Action beyond this is not necessarily immediately required, but plans should be put in place to safeguard any .eu domains post-Brexit, in case no transitional arrangements are agreed.
The easiest solution is to transfer (or put plans in place to transfer, subject to further news on transitional arrangements) .eu domains registered to UK based holders to EU-27 based individuals, subsidiaries or sister companies where possible. Clients currently hosting their main website at a .eu domain who do not have an EU-27 home to which it can be transferred may wish to consider registering another domain name now and re-directing traffic there, to avoid any major disruption. Clients who have registered .eu domains for defensive purposes and could risk losing the right to renew them post-Brexit should ensure that it has EU trade mark rights in place which could be relied on to base a challenge to any abusive registrations.