Client Alert: Brexit's Impact on European Country Code Top-Level Domain Names
In June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), and Britain’s exit, now commonly referred to as “Brexit,” began. Currently, the UK is in the process of trying to agree and approve an exit “deal” for Britain. A deal would secure various settlements, including border controls and citizen rights, and would outline the method for the UK’s exit from the EU. In the event that no agreement is approved, the UK faces a “no deal” Brexit scenario, creating significant uncertainty as to what will then transpire. This situation has intellectual property repercussions. Among other things, it impacts the following European country code top-level domain names owned by non-EU registrants: .EU (European Union), .BG (Bulgaria), .FR (France), .HR (Croatia), .IT (Italy), and .SK (Slovakia).
How Does the Brexit Uncertainty Impact Domain Names?
The registry for .EU, EURid, is governed by the European Commission (EC), which requires that .EU domain names be owned by registrants residing in the EU. The EC has declared that, in the event of a “no deal” Brexit decision, all UK registrants of .EU domain names will have their domain names revoked on March 30, 2019.
The EC has indicated that there will be no “phasing out” or staging of the suspensions or revocations of these domain names and they will instead happen in one batch. In the event of a “deal” Brexit, however, domain revocations will be delayed until January 1, 2021. There is still time for the EC to decide to permit UK registrants to own .EU domains based on the UK’s membership of the European Economic Area or European Economic Community. However, the EC has made no statement or suggestion that this will be its preferred course of action.
In light of the UK’s anticipated departure from the EU on March 29, 2019, we want to make you aware of two significant changes to the ownership requirements of .EU domain names and domain name extensions for Bulgaria (.BG), France (.FR), Croatia (.HR), Italy (.IT), and Slovakia (.SK).
- Registration of new .EU, .BG, .FR, .HR, .IT, and .SK domain names after March 29, 2019. These domain names will require the registrant to be located in the EU. This means that companies which have domain names registered to their United Kingdom address, and/or individuals who reside in the UK, will no longer be eligible to register .EU, BG, .FR .HR, .IT, and/or .SK domain names and instead must use a local proxy service or related entity within a European Member State to register domain names with these extensions.
- Maintenance of existing domain names currently owned under the .EU, .BG, .FR, .HR, .IT, and/or .SK extensions. Any domain names registered before March 29, 2019 in the name of a company established in the UK, or a non-EU entity, will not be renewed, unless they are assigned to a local proxy service or related entity within a European Member State.
What Are Options Available to Non-EU Registrants?
Non-EU registrants owning .EU, .BG, .FR .HR, .IT, and/or .SK domain names, have the following options:
- Local Proxy Service. Most current domain name provider will offer a local proxy service. However, if this is not the case, we can connect you with a local proxy service for any affected domain names via one of our foreign associates. Let us know whether you are interested in proceeding with a local proxy assignment, and we can discuss next steps and pricing.
- Related European Company or Subsidiary. Alternatively, you can transfer ownership of the affected domain names to a related European company or subsidiary (if available).
Please note that .EU, .BG, .FR .HR, .IT, and .SK are the only domain name extensions affected. Those domain name extensions corresponding to other countries in the EU will not require a local proxy or European Member State owner, and no update will be required. Any affected domains which are not assigned to a local proxy service or a European company may be deleted by the respective registries as of March 29, 2019.