EuroDNS announces: French Court of Appeal confirms registrars’ neutrality

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On October 19, 2012 the Paris Court of Appeal pronounced its judgment in a lawsuit initiated in 2008 by 13 French companies against EuroDNS and the .FR Registry regarding domain name registrations.

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EuroDNS are bound to remain neutral in any dispute between our customers and a third party; however, neutrality should never be confused with passivity.

Ending a 5 years long lawsuit, the Court of Appeal confirmed that registrars shall remain neutral in disputes between domain names registrants and third parties claiming a violation of their rights and furthermore held that EuroDNS, as a registrar, shall not be liable for the registrations of its customers.

The Court of Appeal also confirmed the first instance’s ruling which found that EuroDNS acts diligently in cybersquatting cases.

A cornerstone decision for the domain name industry

While in the first instance, this case could be considered a sheer misdirected liability lawsuit against the registrar and not the registrants. The Court of Appeal however had to rule on claims that would have been tremendously detrimental for the whole domain name industry.

The claim of the appellants consisted in asking the Court to impose obligations on registrars that would have required them to act as “gatekeepers” for trademark holders for all the extensions they offer.

The Court of Appeal denied these demands and ruled that registrars have no obligation to proceed to an a priori control of the domain names their customers register with them, nor are registrars obliged to setup additional filtering measures other than those put in place by the registry.

“Those exact same demands were made against a US registrar in a famous case held before a Texas court … back in 2001.” reminds Luc Seufer, Chief Legal Officer at EuroDNS. “Though our industry is still facing the same issues a decade later, several means to settle them via extra-judiciary routes such as the UDRP or SYRELI for .FR registrations have been successfully setup. As underlined by the Court in its decision, the appellants were misguided when they elected not to recourse to those and decided to act against EuroDNS and the French Registry.”

According to the Court of Appeal obliging registrars to screen their customer’s registrations would impose disproportionate and very costly efforts on them in regard to the aim of such obligation. Furthermore and on top of the technical burden that would be created, the decision also highlights the fact that just like Trademark registration offices, registrars have no legal means to decide as to the legitimacy of a registration.

Neutral but always mindful

“This decision upholds the position we have always maintained. As a registrar we are bound to remain neutral in any dispute between our customers and a third party.“ said Seufer. “However neutrality should not be confused with passivity. As the Court acknowledges, although we are in no position to prejudge upon the rights between two parties on a domain name, EuroDNS always act diligently when notified of an issue. Every complaint my department receives is swiftly communicated to the relevant customer along with a very clear reminder of our terms of service regarding third parties’ registered rights.”

By this ruling the Court of Appeal actually confirmed EuroDNS’ advice to its own customers to appeal to the applicable alternative dispute resolution processes when they seek to recover domain names for which they believe to hold exclusive rights on, and where no such process is available, to act against the registrant and not the registrar or registry.

The right route to protect your brand

On the eve of the new gTLDs launch, which will introduce 1400+ new extensions, it is of the utmost importance that brand owners seek advice from experts of the industry to determine the most efficient action to protect their rights on the Internet.

“With this upcoming colossal extension of the online land to monitor and protect, brand owners need to be adequately advised on the applicable means of action.” said Xavier Buck, Chairman of EuroDNS. “When assisting our customers in building their monitoring strategy for their brand, we never advise them to initiate a costly and ineffective action against a technical intermediary. The alternative dispute resolution process is the way to go. Each of the new registries will be bound by the UDRP and URS policies. Those proceedings, are cost-effective and aimed at the relevant party: the cybersquatter.”

About EuroDNS

EuroDNS is a domain name registrar specialized in international domain extensions. Based in Luxembourg with branch offices in Europe, the USA and Asia with AsiaDNS, EuroDNS serves a large variety of clients ranging from SMEs to some of the world’s largest Domain Investors and offers dedicated naming solutions. By strongly participating in leading industry forums including ICANN and the International Trademark Association, EuroDNS seeks to promote e-Commerce and wider Internet adoption.

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Isabelle Vekemans
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