On 28th March 2018, the European Commission published a short notice concerning the effect of Brexit on .eu domain names. The main points of the notice are that from 30th March 2019:
- Legal entities established in and individuals resident in the UK will no longer be entitled to register new, or renew existing, .eu domain names. EURid, the official .eu domain name registry, will be entitled to cancel such domain names unilaterally.
- Rights recognised solely in the UK, such as registered UK trade marks, will no longer be able to be used against speculative or abusive registrations of .eu domain names.
- Any agreements between registrants and registrars governed by UK law or designating a UK court or dispute resolution provider should be amended to the law of an EU member state.
However, the above is all subject to the caveat that the UK and EU may agree otherwise. Negotiations are moving forward between the UK and EU on the overall withdrawal agreement, although the current draft is silent on domain names. Nonetheless, it is possible that the UK and EU will reach agreement in the meantime to mitigate the effects described in the aforementioned notice. Certainly, good progress has been made in the related field of intellectual property in respect of pan-EU rights, as reported here. It is also notable that previous changes to domain name structuring have generally resulted in mitigation, such as “grandfathering” or a sunset period for owners to move sites.
Practical steps that UK owners of .eu domain names could consider include:
- Reviewing their domain name portfolios to ensure they have a back-up domain name registered.
- Potentially starting to redirect traffic from the .eu domain name to a new domain name now, to allow for a smooth transition.
- Transferring .eu domain names to an EU entity under their control.