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New law: European Commission issues Notice on potential effect of Brexit on UK companies and individuals using .eu domain names

UK businesses with .eu Top-Level Domain (TLD) domain names will want to review whether they need to register alternatives following a recent Notice from the European Commission on the potential impact of Brexit on such domain names.

June 2018

This update was published in Legal Alert - June 2018

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

According to the Notice to stakeholders: withdrawal of the United Kingdom and EU rules on .eu domain names, the main effect of Brexit on .eu domain names is that, unless there are provisions in any EU/UK withdrawal agreement to the contrary, the EU regulatory framework for them will no longer apply to the UK from Brexit day (23:00 on 29 March 2019), when the UK leaves the EU.

One requirement of the regime is that only the following are allowed to register .eu domain names:

  • Undertakings with a registered office, central administration or principal place of business in the EU
  • Organisations established in the EU without prejudice to the application of national law
  • Individuals living in the EU

UK entities and individuals will no longer meet any of these criteria after Brexit so will not be able to register new .eu domain names, or renew existing ones. Nor will it be possible to redirect traffic from an existing .eu domain name to a new domain name. There are also issues around how a UK registrant takes action against people who infringe their .eu domain name after Brexit day – for example, those who register a similar name in bad faith.

The regulatory framework also gives EURid (the Registry that manages the .eu domain) the power to revoke existing .eu registrations owned by UK organisation and residents ‘on its own initiative and without submitting the dispute to any extrajudicial settlement of conflicts’. There are more than 300,000 of these registrations.

These consequences are, the Notice stresses, ‘subject to any transitional arrangement that may be contained in a possible withdrawal agreement’, as currently being negotiated.

Operative date

  • 29 March 2019

Recommendation

  • Businesses and individuals using .eu domain names should:
    • Download the Notice from the ec.europa.eu website
    • Consider whether to:
      • transfer their .eu domain names to an EU registrant, such as an EU subsidiary in the same group of companies, and/or
      • register the main domain names under a different TLD (and redirect traffic from their .eu domain names to those new names in the meantime, so the market becomes used to the new domains and to safeguard SEO rankings by giving search engines time to adjust to the change

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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