New .asia domain opens to trade mark holders

A new top-level domain has been launched this week. The first 'sunrise' period for .asia names is only for holders of registered trade marks. Where a name has more than one qualifying applicant, an auction will be held to determine the winner.

Sunrise periods are common whenever a new top level domain is launched. They present an opportunity for trade mark holders to protect their brands against cybersquatters. However, some domain names are sought after by rival trade mark holders.

When the .eu domain was launched in 2006, fashion firm Ralph Lauren, mint maker Nestlé and car giant Volkswagen submitted competing bids for polo.eu. Under the rules of that domain launch, the first qualifying application received in the sunrise period would win the name. All three bids were made within five minutes of each other. Volkswagen succeeded.

The operator of the .asia registry, DotAsia, describes such first-come, first-served sunrise processes as chaotic. Its rules say that all applications received in each phase of its sunrise periods will be treated as being received at the same time.

"If there is only one successfully verified applicant for a domain, it will be allocated to the applicant," say DotAsia's rules. "If more than one applicant to the same domain passes the verification process, all successfully verified applicants will be invited to bid for that domain in an auction."

DotAsia, based in Hong Kong, is a not-for-profit organisation. The policy does not say what will be done with auction revenues. However, a spokesman told OUT-LAW that DotAsia "has a clear mandate for contributing its surplus proceeds back into community projects for the region." The organisation has identified three main areas for contributions, namely digital inclusion projects, educational initiatives and research and development projects, according to the spokesman.

Those wishing to apply during the current phase, which ends on 30th October, must present evidence of their trade marks and service marks. These must have been applied for on or before 16th March 2004. These applicants must also show evidence usage of their marks, which can be samples of advertising or customer testimonials. Government agencies can also apply for names during the current phase.

The next phase is for trade and service mark holders who applied for trade marks on or before 6th December 2006. That phase opens on 13th November and will close on 15th January 2008.

A 'landrush' period will then open in February, at which time the general public can register their interest in addresses before they go on general sale in March 2008.

Edmon Chung, chief executive of the DotAsia Organisation, said: "Brand owners worldwide appreciate DotAsia’s efforts in the Sunrise process to provide them a calm and fair alternative compared with the previous chaotic rushes for domains when a registry opens.”

In order to be eligible for a .asia domain, at least one of the contacts listed in the application must be a legal entity in the DotAsia Community, which includes China, Japan, Australia, Turkey, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Antarctica.