.ASIA Top Level Domain
.ASIA is a regional Top Level Domain (TLD) designed to serve the community of Asian internet users. With over 60% of the world’s population, the Asian region is experiencing tremendous economic and technical growth. There are currently almost 400 million internet users in Asia and this number is rapidly increasing. The large number of potential consumers makes Asia particularly valuable to trademark owners. The large number of internet users in Asia means that the internet will be a vital channel to reach these potential consumers and that it will be critical for trademark owners to adequately protect their Asian trademark rights online. Accordingly, a unified Asian TLD is an extremely valuable and cost effective tool enabling trademark owners to reach the entire region via a single domain registration as opposed to separate domain registrations in each individual Asian country they do business in, which tends to be both difficult and expensive due to often stringent local presence requirements. A unified Asian TLD also provides unscrupulous third parties unprecedented opportunities to infringe upon Asian trademarks on a regional basis, so it is critical that trademark owners protect their Asian trademark rights online by taking advantage of the .ASIA Sunrise process and registering their valuable trademarks as .ASIA domains. Failure to do so almost ensures that a third party will register these domains. Recovery of .ASIA domains incorporating your trademarks after registration by third parties will likely be extremely expensive, assuming it is even possible.
.ASIA and .eu
The mad dash and exorbitant sums expended by trademark owners to acquire .eu domains during the .eu Sunrise and Landrush Periods last year suggests that the .ASIA launch will be as popular with trademark owners, if not more so, than the .eu launch as many trademark owners will be more prepared after last year’s experience. Unfortunately, despite the excitement surrounding the .eu launch and the enormous number of .eu registrations it generated, the .eu launch process is generally regarded as a failure (except by the .eu registry). This is due to the fact that a relatively small group of registrars and registrants exploited gaps in the regulations and lax enforcement by EURid (the .eu registry) to “game” the system and acquire hundreds of thousands of the most valuable .eu domains. Trademark holders in particular felt the pain. Since the .eu sunrise process (which allows trademark owners to protect their trademarks by registering the corresponding domains before open registration) was “first come-first served”, many trademark owners spent vast sums of money, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, to get priority position in registration queues, only to see other entities claim the valuable .eu domains corresponding to their trademarks through last minute spurious trademark registrations in lax jurisdictions such as Benelux and the use of numerous phantom registrars. Additionally, the trademark owners who were able to acquire the domains corresponding to their trademarks have not seen the return on investment they hoped for. This is due in large part to the fact that some of the small group of registrants that acquired hundreds of thousands of the most valuable domains, including trademark and typo domains, registered the domains in order to monetize them by posting Pay-per-click advertising (“PPC”) links instead of actual content, while others registered the domains with the intent to resell them, not posting any content at all. The result of this general lack of content relevant to members of the .eu community has been that fewer internet users have been persuaded to directly navigate to websites in the .eu TLD rather than “.com” or their local Country Code TLD (e.g. “.de” for Germany, “.fr” for France). This translates into less traffic to .eu trademark domains and thus a lower return on investment for trademark owners who have acquired such domains.
However, while .ASIA will likely be as popular as .eu, its procedures are designed to avoid many of the pitfalls of the .eu launch. The .ASIA launch implements a multi-tiered Sunrise period with application deadlines for qualifying trademarks, the ability to register keywords with the trademark, and live auctions to ensure that more legitimate trademark owners are able to acquire the .ASIA domains corresponding to and incorporating their trademarks, and to promote actual use of .ASIA domains by registrants in the form of content relevant to the .ASIA community. The benefit to trademark owners of increased content relevant to the .ASIA community is that internet users in this community will be more apt to navigate to domains in the .ASIA TLD which translates to increased traffic to the trademark owner’s websites, and thus increased sales or exposure to potential Asian consumers.
While rules are currently still in the draft stage, the .ASIA registry has indicated that it is highly unlikely that there will be significant changes before finalization. The .ASIA launch date has not yet been set.
In order to be eligible for .ASIA domain registration, one of the associated domain contacts (registrant, Administrator, technical, or billing) must be a legal entity within the .ASIA Community. The .ASIA Community consists of the Asia / Australia / Pacific region as defined by ICANN and includes 73 countries (see attached annex A).
Pre-Sunrise & Sunrise 1 (SR1): Government Reserved Names
Pre-Sunrise and Sunrise 1 enables governments in the community to reserve and register domain names relevant to the respective government.
Sunrise 2 (SR2): Registered Marks
Sunrise 2 provides priority registration for applicants with Registered Marks. These include trademarks, service marks, etc. At this time, it has not been decided which jurisdictions will qualify for Sunrise 2 prior rights, but it seems highly likely that all jurisdictions in the .ASIA community and the United States will be included. There will be three sub-phases of Sunrise 2:
Sunrise 2a (SR2a): Well Established Marks
Qualifying marks must be applied for before March 16, 2004 and registered before the submission of the .ASIA SR2a application. The application must be supported by a copy of the official registration certificate as well as an affidavit and supporting documents demonstrating usage in the International Class registered will be required.
Sunrise 2b (SR2b): General Registered Marks
Qualifying marks must be applied for before December 6, 2006 and registered before the submission of the .ASIA SR2b application. The application must be supported by a declaration of verifiable mark registration information, with the documents required upon request.
Sunrise 2c (SR2c): Extended Protection for Registered Marks
Approved applicants under SR2a and SR2b may apply for .ASIA domains consisting of their trademarks and relevant words found in the Nice International Class heading for any Class in which the qualified mark has been registered
Sunrise 2 applications received within one sub-phase will be considered to be received at the same time. For domains with only one successfully verified application, the domain will be allocated accordingly. For domains with more than one successfully verified application, a live auction will be held between the successfully verified applicants. Interestingly, before the commencement of the auction, information about each qualified applicant will be provided to the other qualified applicants to assist in bidding decisions.
Applications for SR2a, SR2b and SR2c will be verified by a Verification Agent that will be appointed by the DotAsia Organization.
Sunrise 3 (SR3): Unverified Registered Entity Names
Sunrise 3 allows for registered organizations in the DotAsia Community to register their own Entity Name as a domain in the .ASIA Registry. SR3 applications must be supported by one of the following documents:
• Extract from relevant companies register;
• Certificate of incorporation;
• Certificate of good standing; or
• Other equivalent certified document.
SR3 applications will not be verified by a verification agent, however, application information, including submitted documentary evidence will be posted publicly, so that parties suspecting that a particular applicant or registrant is not qualified may take prompt action.
Applications received during SR3 will be considered to be reserved at the same time. As in SR2, domains with more than one application will be auctioned between applicants.
Landrush: Anyone Meeting the Presence Requirement
During Landrush, any entity meeting the local presence requirement may apply for registration, supported by a declaration that the applicant is a legal entity in the .ASIA community. Applications will be sampled for verification that the applicant meets eligibility requirements and documentary evidence is required upon request.
Applications will be considered to be received at the same time, avoiding rush and lottery-like conditions at the opening of the landrush. Domains with only one application will be allocated to the applicant. As in SR2 and SR3, domains with more than one application will be auctioned between applicants.
Go Live: Anyone Meeting the Presence Requirement
Once the .ASIA registry goes live, any entity meeting the local presence requirement may apply for registration. No declaration of eligibility will be required, but eligibility will be checked by sampling with documentary evidence is required upon request.
Applications submitted after the .ASIA registry goes live will be processed on a “first come, first served” basis.
The .ASIA TLD will be a valuable and cost effective tool to reach Asian consumers and protect trademark rights online in Asia. The .ASIA Sunrise Period is designed to enable trademark owners to protect their valuable intellectual property rights via priority registration of domains incorporating their trademarks. Therefore, since IP rights are clearly implicated, trademark owners considering .ASIA sunrise should consult with law firms specializing in protection of IP and only use domain registrars that have IP professionals on staff regardless of the registrar’s claims of experience with corporate clients.
For more information regarding the .ASIA launch, your eligibility, or protecting your trademark rights online, please contact Principium Strategies, Ladas & Parry’s affiliated brand monitoring service and ICANN-accredited domain name registrar subsidiary.