The sunrise phase of the dotAfrica (.africa) domain opened on the 4th of April and will remain open until the 2nd of June. Trademark owners have been encouraged to register their domain names matching their brand names during the sunrise phase, failure to do so could see these owners incurring significant legal costs later on.
Once all the domain names have been snapped up and put in use, the complexities involved in trying to wrestle intellectual property away from those domains after the sunrise phase are innumerable. This has led proactive trademark owners to already start securing their .africa domain names before the new .africa geographic Top Level Domain (gTLD) is launched to the public during the General Availability (GA) phase from 04 July 2017. Once launched to the public, trademark owners will face an impossible task of protecting their name if they fail to register.
During GA, domain names will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, trademark owners who do not secure their .africa domain names during the current 60-day Sunrise phase may not be able to guarantee the availability of their .africa domain names from GA onwards.
“The very real possibility of opportunists registering one’s trademarks exists and it is best prevented by the simple act of applying now for .africa domain names that match registered or validated intellectual property,” says Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZA Central Registry NPC (ZACR).
According to Mr Masilela, .africa is the new top-level domain for the African continent. “It is an African initiative created by Africans for the International Internet community. In order to ensure responsible growth, the .africa Registry will place special emphasis on securing the rights of intellectual property owners during the Sunrise Period,” he explained.
Africa is home to an array of world-leading brands valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars that require protection. The Africa Brand Index by Ornico lists the following amongst the top 25 social media brands on the continent: SuperSport, Woolworths, Vodacom, Safaricom, FirstBank, Jumia, Airtel, Pick n Pay, MTN and others. For its part, Brand Africa has at least six homegrown African brands included in its global listing of the Top 100 Most Valuable Brands.
The benefits of a dotAfrica domain name for brand owners include showcasing the brand and it’s commitment to the continent, establishing a home for Africa-specific products and services, and expanding the brand’s regional influence, acquiring valuable online real-estate in a fast-growing and high-potential market.
The three .africa launch phases are as follows:
Sunrise Period (4 April 2017 – 2 June 2017) – during the Sunrise Period, trademark owners can secure domain names matching their registered trademarks before .africa is made available to the public. A Trade Mark Clearing House (TMCH) must first validate the registered trademarks. Alternatively, and specifically for the .africa gTLD, a system called Mark Validation System (MVS) will be used to validate trademarks which are not yet registered, company names, trust names and common law trademarks (as well as registered trademarks for trademark proprietors who do not wish to validate through the TMCH).
Landrush Period (Phase 1 = 5 June – 9 June; Phase 2 = 12 June – 16 June; Phase 3 = 19 June – 23 June; Phase 4 = 26 June – 30 June) – this registration is open to everyone around the world without any restriction, but the registration is sold at a higher price than the regular price.
General Availability (4 July 2017) – registration will open to the general public and works on a “first come, first served” basis.