EURid, the organisation that administers the .eu top-level domain, has suspended 74,000 domain names after launching a lawsuit against 400 American registrars for "breach of contract".
The domains in question were all registered for three UK-based limited companies, Ovidio Ltd, Fausto Ltd and Gabino Ltd. Between them the three companies registered 74,000 names.
According to EURid, the three companies are a front for a "syndicate" of 400 US-based registrars, who stand accused of "warehousing" the domain names — registering them speculatively for resale, rather than following a client's request.
The organisation said on Monday that abusing the registration system could lead to a "risk that the perceived value of .eu will decrease, not only for the almost two million legitimate holders of .eu domain names but also for all fair registrars".
"As a registrar, you should have an end user ask you to register a domain name for you before you can register it," EURid's Patrik Linden explained to ZDNet UK on Monday.
"Since they cannot do that in their own name, we say they have registered the domains using these three companies as a front… also, as they are American, they could not have done this, but that is a separate issue," he added.
Linden was keen to point out that legitimate purchasers of .eu domains have not had their domains suspended, saying: "If you are the holder, you're not affected".
A search on the Companies House website lists the "nature of business" of Ovidio Ltd — the only company of the three to appear there — as "market research, opinion polling".
However, EURid claims the three companies "can be regarded as one and the same", and a trawl through their static-page websites does indeed display identical text, with only the names of the companies differing.
The companies' websites were all registered through an American firm called Domains By Proxy, Inc.
Domains with a .eu extension became generally available earlier this year, following a "sunrise period" where European companies and organisations got first option on their names and trademarks.
The launch was nonetheless plagued with complaints — including this one from registration company GoDaddy's founder Bob Parsons — that registrars were stockpiling domains by the thousand.