Legal Download 2.0 - .ae: Domains and Disputes in UAE Cyberspace

Joycia Young explains how domain names work in the UAE and what to do if your domain name has already been taken

Tags: DLA Piper Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Joycia Young Published  June 4, 2008

Why have a .ae domain name?

The internet is undoubtedly a vital platform for business and an incredible source of information. The public now have an expectation to find details about a company through performing an online search. Companies therefore need to use websites to host their information online and websites need to have addresses or 'domain names' as their cyberspace identity. Domain names have clearly become brand names in cyberspace.

Businesses who wish to go online in the UAE should have a .ae domain name. However, just because your company may be using a name, trade name or trade mark in the UAE does not mean that you can automatically use that name as your domain name online. You must protect your domain name through registration with the relevant authority. This article will outline how domain names work in the UAE and what to do if your domain name has already been taken in cyberspace.

Recent developments

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the technical co-ordination body for the Internet, delegated responsibility for the United Arab Emirates' country code top-level domain name, '.ae', to the UAE Network Information Center (UAEnic), a division of Etisalat, the UAE's incumbent telecommunications provider. Following a resolution of the board of ICANN dated 23rd January 2008, responsibility was re-delegated to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE, and more specifically its nominated department, .ae Domain Administration (.aeDA).

UAEnic, however, will continue to manage and administer domain name registrations and its policies and rules will remain in force until .aeDA goes live. A date has not been set but the handover of operations to .aeDA is expected to occur in the next few months. It is thought that any amendments to the UAEnic's dispute resolution procedure will not be substantive.

How do I apply?

You can apply for the registration of a domain name online at the UAEnic website (the .aeDA registration system is not yet in operation), in accordance with their terms and conditions. An application form must be completed and submitted to the UAEnic Registry accompanied by a fee and a copy of the ID of the person making the payment. The domain name must comply with certain rules; it must not contain spaces, dots or certain symbols and must be between two and 63 characters in length.

But be careful! When applying for the registration of a domain name, you are required to warrant that the registration and use of the domain name will not infringe or violate someone else's rights.

What if my name has already been taken?

Under UAEnic's Terms and Conditions for the registration of a '.ae' domain name, registrants are obliged to comply with the "Dispute Policy of .ae" and the "Dispute Rules of .ae" (both UAEDRP). These are a set of rules and guidelines which govern domain name disputes between parties relating to the registration and use of domain names.

The UAEDRP closely follows the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and accompanying rules, adopting the substantive provisions of those rules. In particular, the grounds for challenge of a domain name by a third party remain the same.

Proceedings can be commenced against the registrant of a domain name if a third party has grounds to claim that:

(i) the registrant's domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark or service mark in which the third party has rights; and

(ii) the registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

(iii) the registrant's domain name has been registered or is being used in bad faith.

The proceedings are conducted before the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. UAEnic will cancel, transfer or otherwise make changes to domain name registrations as directed by the arbitrator.

Recent lessons: sonyericsson.ae and ebay.ae

WIPO already has had the opportunity to deal with two '.ae' domain name disputes brought under the UAEDRP in which the domain names were successfully transferred to the complainant third parties; one in relation to 'sonyericsson.ae' and the other in relation to 'ebay.ae'.

In both cases WIPO found that the grounds detailed above had been made out and that the registrants had acted in bad faith. In the 'ebay.ae' case WIPO considered that the use of the domain name by the registrant was an attempt, for commercial gain, to attract internet users by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant's established mark. In the 'sonyericsson.ae' case, WIPO concluded that the registrant, who had not used the domain name, registered it primarily for the purpose of selling it to the complainant for valuable consideration in excess of the out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name.

UAE cyberspace

The rules governing registration and protection of domain names in the .ae domain space are vital to provide stability and support to businesses seeking to establish an online presence in the UAE. By having an accessible and responsive system in place which also meets international standards, .ae domain names will continue to foster the UAE's strong online presence.

The author, Joycia Young, is Head of IP, MESA Region for DLA Piper LLC

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