On 24 January 2019, EURid, the .EU Registry, issued an update to its Brexit notice, setting out a no-deal plan for .EU domain names whose WHOIS information displays GB (United Kingdom) or GI (Gibraltar, overseas territory of the United Kingdom) as their country code.

Unlike the eligibility requirements for ownership of a European Union (EU) trade mark, as set out in Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No. 2017-1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union Trade Mark (“any natural or legal person, including authorities established under public law, may be the proprietor of an EU trade mark“), the eligibility requirements for .EU domain names are far more stringent.

Article 4(2)(b) of Regulation (EC) No. 733/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 April 2002 on the implementation of the .EU Top Level Domain (Text with EEA relevance) reserves the .EU domain name space to any:

(i) undertaking having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the Community, or

(ii) organisation established within the Community without prejudice to the application of national law, or

(iii) natural person resident within the Community.

With the prospect of a no-deal situation becoming more and more likely, EURid has issued instructions on what is to take place in the period around 30 March 2019 in the event that the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a mutually-agreed transitional arrangement, as those registrants, natural or legal, based in the UK will no longer fulfil the .EU eligibility requirements.

In the most basic terms, if UK registrants are unable to bring themselves into compliance with the .EU eligibility requirements within 12 months, they risk losing their domain names, which will eventually be revoked and released back onto the open market for registration.

On 23 March 2019, UK registrants will receive a notice from EURid about the upcoming noncompliance of the data associated with their domain names. On 30 March 2019, a second notice will be issued, in which case registrants will be given an opportunity to demonstrate their compliance with the .EU eligibility requirements by updating their WHOIS data. In the two months following 30 March 2019, websites and email services operated under affected domain names will remain active. From 30 May 2019, all affected domain names that have not been brought into compliance will be deemed ineligible and will be “withdrawn”. Withdrawn domain names will no longer support websites or email services, but will remain in the .EU Registry database and may be reactivated if compliance can be demonstrated. If registrants of affected domain names are still unable to demonstrate compliance by 30 March 2020, their domain names will be revoked, and released in batches for registration on the open market.

Special provisions apply for domain names that are on hold due to pending court proceedings, or are otherwise suspended. EURid has also flagged the upcoming regulatory changes set to occur later in 2019, which are designed to enable all EU/European Economic Area (EEA) citizens to register a .EU domain name, regardless of their country of residenc

Notwithstanding the possibility of the implementation of a transitional agreement, UK-based domain name registrants, including EU citizens, would be well advised to familiarise themselves with EURid’s Brexit notice, and to carefully check for any domain names that may be affected. The Brexit notice and other EURid news can be found here.