Around 500 delegates from government, business and country code top level domain name administrators (ccTLDs) attended a conference organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva in February 2001. The conference was organised as part of WIPO's ccTLD Programme, which was developed in response to requests from member states for WIPO to provide dispute resolution mechanisms and services to ccTLD administrators to curb the problem of cybersquatting in the ccTLD. A ccTLD is the two letter code corresponding to the country represented, e.g. .hk, .uk, .fr.

Draft guidelines under the heading WIPO Best Practices for Prevention and Resolution of Intellectual Property Disputes in ccTLDs" were published, and ire open for public comment until April JO 2001. The guidelines set out minimum standards of intellectual property protection in ccTLDs. In order to accommodate he different business models, ranging from closed domains (i.e. where only citizens or companies of that country can register a domain name) to commercially marketed domains such as ".tv", the guidelines are drafted within a flexible framework and cover three areas:

  • ensuring reliable registration of contact details;
  • establishment of alternative dispute resolution procedures;
  • best practices in relation to contractual matters involving registration agreements.

Delegates also considered the implications of multilingual domain names in relation to cybersquatting (see below) and cybersquatting of generic top level domains (gTLDs). Disputes over gTLDs are currently dealt with under ICANN's uniform Dispute Resolution Policy UDRP) of which WIPO is an accredited service provider, dealing with over 2000 domain name disputes since December 1999.

At present, 18 ccTLD administrators have adopted the UDRP which offers complainants certain advantages where cybersquatters have registered both gTLD and ccTLD domain names. Complainants are able to consolidate complaints against both registrations in a single case.

Multilingual domain names

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has been developing standard requirements for internationalised access to domain names. Registration of domain names in Chinese, Japanese and Korean has been possible since late last year through the operation of experimental testbeds which are testing a variety of standards under consideration by IETF, a working group of ICANN and implemented through approximately 20 companies such as, Verisign Global Registry Services and the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium.

The testbed permits certified registrars in competition with each other to submit multilingual domain names for registration in the same way that English language domain names are currently being registered with the suffixes .org, .com and .net.

Francis Gurry WIPO Assistant Director General at the WIPO Conference on Intellectual Property Aspects of ccTLDs in Geneva commented that: "This is going to create a whole new demand for domain names and a whole new possibility for cybersquatting as the risk of such abuses is magnified by the number of scripts you are going to add. We are informed that the demand for registrations is to be measured in millions rather than hundreds of thousands."

An applicant has to decide upon the specific characters required for registration, which will be followed by .com, .net or .org. Protection of existing English language domain names does not extend to non-English languages and characters. Separate registrations are required for registering a domain name in more than one language, but it is possible to register up to 100 different domain names in the same language using a bulk registration.

The non-English character domain name will be registered using the RACE encoding language which represents the non-English character domain name in ASCI and will be represented as a set of numbers, letters and dashes. This allows recognition of the non-English character domain name by the traditional Domain Name System. The WHOIS database cannot be searched using non-English characters, but will eventually be updated to recognise non-English characters.

Until that time, searches can be conducted using the RACE encoded language. The non-English character domain name functions can be accessed in the same way an English language domain name. However, is it not possible to establish email accounts based on non-English characters at this time.

Registration of domain names in Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese are planned for the future.

However, potential registrants should be aware that a number of other organisations are offering alternative registration systems. For example China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) has also established a Chinese Domain Name System (CDNS).

Unlike the Chinese character domain name registrations being offered by the ICANN certified registrars which end with the English suffixes ".com", ".org" and ".net", the CNDS allows Internet users to register Chinese character domain names with the suffix .cn. or the Chinese characters ".XX". Other CDNSs are also being offered by China Network Information Centre and the Taiwan Network Information Centre (TWNIC).

First published in [email protected] in March 2001. Volume 2 Issue 2.