Availability of .ML, .CF and .NG: reviewing strategy for domain names in Africa. Decisions to be made before May 31st 2013

Illustration nom de domaineMali, the Central African Republic and Nigeria are relaxing their registration requirements regarding first level extensions, designated respectively by .ML, .CF and .NG. The decision was taken during ICANN’s last meeting in Beijing in April 2013.

Previously, the registration of extensions .ML, .CF and .NG .required local presence, without which only the second level extensions .COM.ML, .COM.CF and .COM.NG were available. Today, the extensions .ML, .CF and .NG are accessible to any company, wherever its head office may be.

The Nigerian “.NG” became available on April 16 2013. There was no priority ‘Sunrise’ period for mark holders. The registration of domain names is granted on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

For Mali and the Central African Republic, the opening date for extensions .ML and .CF was May 1st 2013. The opening of the priority Sunrise period for mark holders, without a requirement for local presence will end on May 31st 2013. This will be followed by the ‘Landrush’ period for all domain names that must be purchased from June 1St to July 14th 2013, after which there will be general availability from July 15th onwards.

The critical period for mark holders will begin on July 15 2013 since the registrar has announced that he will issue the majority of his domain names at no cost, again following the principle of ‘first come, first served’. However, the applicant will not become the owner of the domain name since the registrar reserves the right to unilaterally remove the domain name and accessibility to it by, for example, adding advertising. Obtaining a free domain name is therefore of little interest to firms.

The risks associated with these new registration conditions are very real, especially concerning fraudulent registrations and cybersquatting, as for instance:

  • Domain names under the extension “.ML” can be reserved and renewed at no cost;
  • No procedures to regulate conflicts such as UDRPs have yet been established.

Our advice: consider making defensive registrations in the light of each individual offer. We are here to advise you.