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Brexit – European Commission Notice regarding .EU domain names

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Late last month the European Commission issued a notice regarding the impact of Brexit on .eu domain names.

The notice states that, unless the EU and the UK agree otherwise in the withdrawal agreement, from 30 March 2019 the “EU regulatory framework for the .eu Top Level Domain” will no longer apply to the UK. This has a number of consequences:

1) UK based companies and UK resident natural persons will no longer be able to register .eu domain names or to renew .eu domain names that were registered before withdrawal;

2) The registry manager for .eu Top Level Domains, EURid, will be able to revoke domain names where the eligibility criteria are no longer met. Such revocations can be made “on its (EURid’s) own initiative and without submitting the dispute to any extrajudicial settlement of conflicts”.

3) Rights recognised by the UK but not the EU-27 or the Union (e.g. UK trade marks) will no longer be able to be used in revocation proceedings relating to speculative and abusive registrations.

4) Any agreements between the Registrar and the registrant of a .eu domain name that designate UK law should be revised so that they specify the law of another EU member state.

There are around 320,000 .eu domains on the register that have UK registrants. This is just under a tenth of the total number of .eu domains (3,815,055 such domains were registered by the end of 2017). It is therefore hoped that some alternative arrangement can be made between the UK and the EU before the UK becomes “a third country”. It is noted that currently the draft withdrawal agreement is silent on the issue of domain names.

It is interesting to note that the day after the EU Commission notice was published, EURid issued its own statement which doesn’t exactly give the impression that EURid knew that the Commission’s notice was on its way (“Yesterday afternoon …the registry manager… received the link to the European Commission’s communication“).

UK owners of .eu domains have a couple of options to consider:

1) Make sure you have alternative domain names registered and redirect your .eu traffic to the new domain name as soon as possible. This will hopefully make the transition when the UK leaves the EU as smooth as possible.

2) If you have an EU subsidiary outside the UK consider transferring the .eu domain before Brexit happens.

Mark Richardson 24 April 2018

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