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Are eu being served?

Britishinsurance.com managing director Simon Burgess looks at how the domain game is being played out for .eu web addresses

Last December the .eu internet address extension became available and by July more than two million had been registered.

Firms need to be thinking about protecting their eu addresses and if they have not already done so, then registering them should be a priority.

Is the address still available, has it been registered by a competitor, what is it being used for? These are all things that firms should be thinking of and if they are not, you can rest assured that others are.

One needs look no further that the situation of www.moneymarketing.eu which does not belong to this newspaper’s publishers, but has been registered by a Cypriot firm called Ovidio.

Ovidio is being investi-gated by EURid, which is the organisation running the eu domain addresses. As part of its investigation, EURid has suspended 74 000 eu addresses and sued 400 registrars for breach of contract.

Explaining the situation in more detail, Herman Sobrie, legal manager of EURid comments: “In this case, we are convinced that the domain name holders of the 74 000 eu names (Ovidio, Fausto and Gabino) are acting as a front for a number of registrars.

“The domain name holders and the registrars can be regarded as one and the same. Since registrars should only register domain names for existing customers and not warehouse the names to resell them at a higher price, this is clearly in breach of the registrar contract.”

It will be interesting to see what happens in due course and it is encouraging to see EURid act quickly and firmly in looking to maintain the integrity of valid users and domain holders and protect the value of their eu addresses.

However, given the numbers involved, it is easy to see how many firms could be affected and the sort of problems it could cause for them.

Initially, when the eu domain name was released in December last year, it was only available to public bodies and holders of prior rights such as trademarks.

In April this year, the domain was offered on general release and that is why these problems are only coming to light now.

What is important is that firms realise the importance of their internet address and then secure ownership of it. Even if they do not do business via the internet at the moment or are not ready to make full use of an internet site, failing to register the name will only cause problems into the future.

If another firm or individual has registered a domain name that uses that name inappropriately to generate business for itself, or if a firm’s registered trademark is being used by an unauthorised individual then companies will have recourse to the law in getting their hands back on the domain name.

But if there are no trademark issues involved or a firm of the same name has simply registered the name first, then getting the domain back is going to be very difficult.

Given that it costs a matter of just a few pounds a year to register and own a domain name there is no reason why firms should even be getting themselves into this position.

Visiting www.eurid.eu in the first instance will enable companies to see if their domain name is available and if not then who owns it. After that, it will be a matter of either buying the domain name there and then or investigating the possibilities of getting it back, which could prove both costly and time-consuming.

The secret to an easy life is taking care of the little things as soon as they crop up. This is a classic example and where firms register their domain name then there simply is not a problem.

Those who do not may find it has been taken by a competitor who is directing business enquiries back to their own site. In other instances, it may be a firm selling totally unrelated products and services.

The bottom line is that unless a firm owns its own domain it cannot control the experience that visitors to that site have, which could be highly damaging to reputation and future business volumes.

If an intermediary is not capable of sorting out a presence on the web, then how can a client trust it to do a good job with their finances?

Firms may believe that having the .co.uk address registered is enough, and eschew making any effort to get a .eu name. But for the sake of a few pounds this seems to be a mistake and is likely only to cause confusion for clients searching out firms on the internet and dilute their experience of the company.

The internet is no longer a playground, it is the modern workplace. When was the last time that the front door was left open at the office and a sign hung up inviting squatters in? If firms do not take the time to register their domain names on the internet, this is exactly what they are doing in digital terms. Making sure this does not happen is not difficult and for those who get it sorted life will be so much easier than for those who leave it languishing in the to do list.

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