The Irish registry for internet domain names (IEDR) has opened a public consultation on the liberalisation of the .IE domain registration and naming policy.

Currently, domain registration applicants are required to demonstrate they have:

  1. a "valid claim" to the domain name selected; and
  2. a "real and tangible connection" to the island of Ireland.

Proposed change of policy

The IEDR is now proposing to dispense with the requirement that applicants prove a 'valid claim' to the domain name. While .IE domain names are already allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and, in most cases, the "valid claim" requirement is easily satisfied, the IEDR has identified a perception that .IE domains names are "hard to get". The IEDR hope that the policy change proposed will ensure a more straightforward system of registration and will be particularly beneficial to start-up businesses.

The IEDR's Policy Advisory Committee and Board of Directors have approved the policy change in principle and it is envisaged that, subject to final consensus, the change in policy will apply from early 2018. The consultation runs until 30 September 2017 and a copy of the consultation document is available here.

The future of .IE remains identifiably Irish

The requirement to prove a tangible connection to the island of Ireland will still apply in order to ensure registrants are "identifiably Irish". This is regarded by David Curtin, Chief Executive of the IEDR, as being one of the greatest values of the .IE domain registration.

Ongoing liberalisation of the IE namespace

The "valid name" requirement was one of a number of policies adopted in the early days of the .IE namespace to deter cyber-squatting and avoid the need for defensive registrations by brand owners. In early 2015, the IEDR introduced a structured policy development process and formed a Policy Advisory Committee comprised of industry and civil society stakeholders. Since then, a number of liberalising measures have been recommended. In February 2015, the Policy Advisory Committee recommended lifting the ban on secondary market sales and a new aftermarket, supervised by the IEDR, has been operating in relation to the private sale of .IE domains names since November 2016. The IEDR is also considering opening up certain reserved domain names to the public in the near future.

What if a cyber-squatter registers 'my domain' first?

The IEDR's Dispute Resolution Policy (DRP) remains in place. Under the DRP claimants who can demonstrate a right to a domain (such as a trade mark) can apply to have the domain transferred or cancelled in circumstances where that domain has been wrongly registered by another party. This system is operated by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) which appoints an independent an impartial panel to determine the dispute.

This process, while reliable, can be costly for claimants and the IEDR has recently discussed introducing a more informal dispute resolution process similar to the Uniform Rapid Suspension Process followed in other jurisdictions. While this change has only very recently been proposed, it has been suggested that such a process might involve mediation by an independent third party.

In more serious cases, businesses may protect their brand by pursuing cyber-squatters through the Irish courts for trade mark infringement and passing off.