No sex.eu please, we're British

UK companies may find it tricky to register generic .eu domain names during the sunrise period next year, but there is a way around it if you adopt the continental approach

When the .eu domain goes live, now expected to happen sometime late next year, it is likely that the generic domain names will be among the most hotly contested.

Sex.eu is a prime example, said experts on Wednesday, of a domain name that is likely to attract a large number of applications from people hoping to take advantage of different country rules.

EURid, the consortium of three European registries that has won the deal to operate the domain, is planning a four-month sunrise period to help organisations win .eu domains that correspond to their registered trademarks. EURid hopes to avoid the debacle that blighted the launch of the .info domain in 2001, where organisational problems meant the sunrise period was not properly implemented.

During the initial two-month sunrise period, organisations which can prove ownership of a trademark registered in any of the 25 European countries will be given a chance to acquire their .eu domain names. After that, any person or organisation with an 'official address' in an EU country will also have precedence for the next two months. Once that second two-month period is up, registrations will be open to all-comers.

The sex.eu loophole will arise because of different trademark rules in different countries, say experts. "You can't trademark the word 'sex' in the UK because it is so generic," said Dr Willie Black, chairman and founder of Nominet, which runs the .co.uk domain name, "but you probably could register it in somewhere like Poland, which would mean you could then register the sex.eu domain from there."

In its advice on the matter, the UK Patents Office says: "You cannot use everyday words which say what your goods or services are (in a trademark application), as everybody dealing in them should be able to use these words for their goods or services."

The dichotomy raises the prospect of companies and organisations registering trademarks in places other than their home country where local rules may invalidate a trademark application, so they can then register the relevant .eu domain.

Black also issued a warning over companies charging a fee in exchange for a promise to reserve .eu domain names. No official pre-registration has been set up, said Black. "If [companies] are taking money on a firm promise they are acting illegally."