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12|22|2007 11:10 pm EDT

Registrar Belgium Domains Locked Out of Registry

by Adam Strong in Categories: Legal Issues

Domain Name News has received an email from domain registrar Belgium Domains informing their clients and customers that the registrar has been locked out of the registry at Verisign. The lockout was spurred by the ongoing legal battles between the registrar and plaintiffs claiming trademark infringement. Plaintiffs, including Dell and Yahoo, received a court order to lock all of the domains at the registry and Belgium Domains is unable to administer any of the domains.

The email leaves customers in the dark on issues such as renewing or transferring domains and it remains unclear from the email what customers can do about their domains and who is currently in charge of administering them. This case will likely set a precedent in what happens when a registrar gets into legal trouble. If customers who are uninvolved in the case are prevented from managing their domain names, as seems to be the case, this action may need to be re-evaluated and measures put in to place to insure that there isn’t another “registerfly” sort of fiasco again.

Dear Registrant:

We have the unhappy duty of informing you that on October 10, 2007, Dell, Inc., Alienware, Inc., and Yahoo! Inc., filed lawsuits against BelgiumDomains and two other registrars. The plaintiffs allege that a small percentage of the domain names we have registered for our clients have names confusingly similar to their trademarks. However, instead of bringing their complaints in open court, the plaintiffs proceeded in secrecy, inflicting tremendous damage on BelgiumDomains and the other defendants.

The worst of those injuries also affects our customers. VeriSign advised us that the plaintiffs obtained a court order forcing VeriSign, our registry, to lock most of the domain names we have registered on behalf of our registrants. Currently, BelgiumDomains is unable to administer those locked accounts. We cannot provide you further details as the order locking all of these domains is still sealed.

We have retained Newman Dichter , one of the leading firms in domain-related legal disputes and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail. However, at this early stage, we cannot predict how long the court orders affecting your domain names will remain in place. As we learn more, we will keep you informed as to the status of the domain names you have registered with us.

Please accept BelgiumDomains’ sincere apology for this completely unpredictable turn of events. Rest assured that we take our responsibilities to you and your account seriously and are working aggressively to remedy this unfortunate and unfair situation as soon as possible. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us or our attorneys.

Legal Team
BelgiumDomains, LLC

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26 Comments

DP

December 23, 2007 @ 1:06 am EDT

Yet another example of why oversight of the global TLDs should not be controlled by any single company.

When a US company can effectively shut down an overseas registrar with a US court order because the .COM registry happens to be managed by a US corporation it just strengthens that country’s ccTLD and weakens .COM as a global platform.

DP

December 23, 2007 @ 1:07 am EDT

Oops, first line should read “any single country”, sorry.

Joseph

December 23, 2007 @ 1:35 am EDT

Dream on, DP. America is not about to surrender its rights in managing the TLD space.

Doc

December 23, 2007 @ 10:13 am EDT

Super!

Are they trying to tell us that Belgium Domains actually has “real” registrants other than themselves doing the domain kiting on trademarks? Did the same freeze hit Capitol and Doorman I hope. These are the clowns that are giving our little domain industry such a bad “name” and causing a big part of the cost the rest of us “real” domainers wipo hassles and $cost. The public needs to learn the difference between a domainer and a squatter. When/If that happens, maybe the negative articles will stop and the business community will see our sector as legitimate and domain values will soar like the should. The sooner we’re rid of these slimeballs the better.

Frank Michlick

December 23, 2007 @ 11:19 am EDT

While I share the concern about the image portrayed of our industry by trademark-infringements, I do find it quite concerning that this appears to be the first case that _the_registry_ was ordered/asked to shut down a registrar and it’s domains.

What if a US court orders an entire ccTLD shut down the next time? How about .CM?

/FM

Steve

December 23, 2007 @ 8:21 pm EDT

Regardless of how one feels about the business practices of this and other like-minded companies, this should serve as one more stark example of why we all must be diligent about keeping plenty of “extra” time on all of our renewal periods.

Joseph

December 24, 2007 @ 1:28 am EDT

Why would there be a legal distinction between court ordering a registrar to take some action or court ordering a registry to take some action?

Both registrars and registries are subject to court orders. In fact ICANN and the root-name server operators are also subject to court orders. This is an obvious legal fact. And it just happens they are based in the US. If they were based in a foreign jurisdiction, they would be subject to a court order of that country/jurisdiction.

ASN5

December 24, 2007 @ 4:36 am EDT

I agree with doc. There had to be some evidence that this registrar was actually the registrant of these offending domain names; you don’t get an order like that on speculation.

I think there are legal ways to use other people’s trademarks. I actually ended up with a few of theses type of domain names in a group of names I bought a while back.

I started to just not resolve them, but figured I’d try a different approach. For instance, if I owned DellComputers.com, I may resolve it to a page that stated as follows:

“Neither this site or this domain name are affiliated in any way with the Dell computer company (see http://dell.com/). Please note that registration rights to this domain name are available for transfer, but only to an authorized Dell dealer. Proof of such authorization will be required at the time of transfer. Contact me for pricing information”

Basically, just show the respect the trademark deserves and make sure everything is above board (similar to the way described above).

If trademark company asked me for the three I have, I wouldn’t hesitate to hand them over in short order. They mean nothing to my portfolio, and are exceptions that I just ended up with.

In my case, acting as described above, I haven’t heard a discouraging word. I also haven’t sold a single one of these lamers either, so I won’t be renewing them, but that’s not my point.

These guys were plastering paid links to the trademark holder on their pages, so they clearly were trying to benefit off of the mark and there is quite a bit of difference – at least in my mind.

Dave Zan

December 26, 2007 @ 7:09 am EDT

What if a US court orders an entire ccTLD shut down the next time? How about .CM?

Subsequently, Joseph gave one answer:

If they were based in a foreign jurisdiction, they would be subject to a court order of that country/jurisdiction.

A US-based party can try to enforce a court order on, say, the .US Registry Neustar. But doing that to a foreign ccTLD, especially one who doesn’t see eye to eye with the US, is another story.

Of course, it’s almost all over the online news regarding Dell suing those 3 registrars. It so happens they’re doing what they can under the circumstances, and this is one of them.

Joseph

December 26, 2007 @ 10:28 am EDT

Dave,

The point is there has to be some court somewhere that has legal jurisdiction over a) a registrar b) a registry and c) the root name operators.

No one, no where, no how, anywhere in the universe is free of any and all court jurisdiction.

Any registrar, registry, and root operator based in the US is subject to a US court. If any of them were to be based outside the US they would be subject to the courts in that country.

Of course a court ought to be judicial in the reach of any order it issues.

Adam Strong

December 26, 2007 @ 1:52 pm EDT

One thing that I tried to point out was that as a consequence of a court order a registrants domains can be caught up in the mess. This could happen at any registrar and it’s something registrants should be aware of when choosing their provider.

[…] locked out of registry. Domain Name News reports that customers of Belgium Domains are in a pickle thanks to a lawsuit by Dell and Yahoo. – Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew del.icio.us |Digg […]

[…] locked out of registry. Domain Name News reports that customers of Belgium Domains are in a pickle thanks to a lawsuit by Dell and […]

Ron Sheridan

December 26, 2007 @ 10:44 pm EDT

Ouch!

This seems extreme in that it adversely impacts EVERY one of the Registrars clients.

Am I missing something?

Dave Zan

December 27, 2007 @ 10:16 pm EDT

Am I missing something?

Not a thing, Ron. This is one inherent risk when registering a .com, and there’s no realistic way around it.

Don’t worry, Joseph, I ain’t disagreeing with you at all. :)

Ron Sheridan

December 28, 2007 @ 12:44 am EDT

thx Dave

John McCormac

December 31, 2007 @ 2:38 pm EDT

It could be a signal that the domain business is moving away from the Wild West image. The question about the affected registrars is whether they were real registrars or registrars set up to abuse the grace period rules and indulge in trademark infringement (just like those in the .eu landrush). The nuclear option would be enjoining ICANN as an accomplice though that may be unlikely to happen.

Has Belgium Domains LLC actually provided any information as to how many of its clients are affected by this action or is it just an attempt at some spin in order to get favourable coverage?

Frank Michlick

December 31, 2007 @ 2:39 pm EDT

Belgium Domains was partnered with Snapnames a while back and it seems that there might be names from drops that are still with the registrar and are now locked.

/FM

John McCormac

December 31, 2007 @ 2:53 pm EDT

I guess that Belgium Domains will push this angle hard as it makes it look like an ordinary registrar with real clients.

Things could get very interesting Dell decides to move against Snapnames and the other dropcatchers as part of this action – especially if any of the problem domains happened to have been caught by the dropcatchers and then transferred. It is like a ripple effect on a pond. It could really change the domain business if the action succeeds in that it would provide a precedent that would change organised trademark infringement from being simple trademark infringement to counterfeiting.

Dave Zan

January 2, 2008 @ 1:18 am EDT

The question about the affected registrars is whether they were real registrars or registrars set up to abuse the grace period rules and indulge in trademark infringement (just like those in the .eu landrush).

Currently this is part of what it says in ICANN’s registrar accreditation agreement:

http://icann.org/registrars/ra-agreement-17may01.htm

1.10 The word “registrar,” when appearing without an initial capital letter, refers to a person or entity that contracts with Registered Name Holders and with a Registry Operator and collects registration data about the Registered Name Holders and submits registration information for entry in the Registry Database.

1.11 “Registrar Services” means services provided by a registrar in connection with a TLD as to which it has an agreement with the TLD’s Registry Operator, and includes contracting with Registered Name Holders, collecting registration data about the Registered Name Holders, and submitting registration information for entry in the Registry Database.

Unless I missed something, there’s nothing there stating that registrars must exist solely to cater to end-users or register domain names for their own purposes. Try to add those kinds of “restrictions” and inevitably someone with differing interests will disagree.

ASN5

January 2, 2008 @ 3:15 am EDT

I hesitate to inject, as Dave is a thoughtful, thorough and formidable master of comment. Still, I think the context of the question was within the overall scope of trying to determine the danger that exists for Registered Name Holders at any registrar.

And, in that context, it becomes extremely important to understand whether the registrar in question was primarily working on its own behalf, or that of actual end users.

To cut to the last scene here, I think it’s safe to say, that the larger the registrar, the more likely it is that any “insider trading” would be a very small percentage of their total registrations. In that case, any judge should that such injunction would have ramifications that harm the public.

Therefore, I believe the same judge would view any “irreparable damage” claim in an entirely different light. Instead, I am imagining the judge would lean towards something more akin to the trusteeship imposed on various unions.

Hari

October 30, 2008 @ 11:36 pm EDT

A domain I wanted has long been parked by belgium domain and they never responded mails that I sent regarding it…

now I wois the site it says the staus is “pending delete” and coincidentally the expiration was as close as the last august.

how do I know if it is because of the lawsuit and can I now buy the domain? Of course it isn’t (yet) being displayed as for sale at other registrars.

— any suggestions on what lead to take. P.S: “pending Delete”?

Regards
-H

Frank Michlick

October 30, 2008 @ 11:41 pm EDT

@Hari: Welcome to DomainNameNews.

Your best bet would most likely be to backorder the domain through companies such as SnapNames.com, NameJet.com, Pool.com. If it is marked as “pending-delete” it should delete five or six days from the time it was last updated (depending on the time of day it was marked as to be deleted).

Hari

October 31, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT

@Frank: Do you think it is related to the lawsuit? It was last updated on 27th oct. The internic whois listing is:

Whois Server: whois.belgiumdomains.com
Referral URL: http://www.belgiumdomains.com
Name Server: No nameserver
Status: pendingDelete
Updated Date: 27-oct-2008
Creation Date: 14-aug-2007
Expiration Date: 14-aug-2008

Regards
-H

Frank Michlick

October 31, 2008 @ 12:08 am EDT

@Hari: No way of telling if it’s related to the lawsuit, but you would want to make sure the domain does not contain any trademark. It looks like it should delete on November 1st or 2nd. Good luck in getting it through your backorder.

John McCormac

October 31, 2008 @ 2:12 am EDT

It should be interesting to see what impact this has on the .com zone. The crackdown on domain tasting has made the growth patterns in .com far more visible from June onwards. If I remember correctly, most of the domains in the case were frozen by the registry. If they are making it back into the deletion process, then there may be a lot deletion to hit the .com zone in the next few weeks. Has there been any development in the Dell case?

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