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Registration Opening for .MX Top Level Domain Names

Intellectual Property Update Hillary J. Wucherer

Introduction

If a Mexico-specific Internet presence is important to you or your company, take note: Beginning at 12:01 a.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, September 1, 2009, individuals and businesses can apply to register domain names under the .MX country code top-level domain ("ccTLD"). Until this point, .MX top level domain names were restricted to certain Mexican educational institutions. While this registration process presents an opportunity to obtain a direct association with Mexico on the Internet, it also presents a risk that unscrupulous users (often called "cybersquatters") could try to reserve domain names that contain your company's name or trademarks (e.g., http://www.yourbrand.mx).

Registration Process

This expansion of the .MX ccTLD is occurring through a three-phase process administered by Network Information Center México ("NIC México"), the nonprofit organization that manages the registry for the .MX ccTLD. The phases are (1) the pre-registration period, (2) the quiet period and (3) the initial registration period - we currently are in the quiet period. During May, June and July, owners of the second-level domain names (.com.mx, .gob.mx, .edu.mx, .org.mx and .net.mx) pre-registered for a corresponding .MX domain name. During the August quiet period, NIC México is processing the domain name requests received during the pre-registration period and making decisions on duplicate domain name requests. The initial registration period, which is being referred to as a "reopening" of the registration period, is open to the public. It begins on September 1, 2009 and ends at midnight (CDT) on October 31, 2009. You do not need to do business in Mexico or have a physical presence there to be eligible to register for a .MX domain name.

Once the initial registration period begins, .MX domain names can be reserved directly through NIC México's registrar service. NIC México also provides a searchable list of other accredited registrars (including some U.S. registrars). The .MX domain names will be activated immediately upon registration.

NIC México has reserved some .MX domain names for use by the Mexican government and other institutions. These domain names are unavailable for registration by the public. The list of reserved domain names is available here.

Registration Price Structure Varies Over Time

If obtaining a .MX domain name makes sense for your business, the decision as to when to register has both strategic and financial consequences. NIC México has set the registration fee for .MX domain names initially at USD $1,000.00. This is a variable fee. It will gradually decrease to USD $35.00 by October 31, 2009. On a daily basis, NIC México will update the current registration fee on its Web site. Beginning on November 1, 2009, after the initial registration period has ended, the registration fee will be set at USD $50.00. These prices only include the fee charged by NIC México for one year of registration. Other registrars may charge additional fees.

This variable fee structure means those registering early in the process will pay a premium price. If you register early, you will pay higher registration fees, but it is more likely that your desired .MX domain name will still be available. If you wait until later in the process, you will pay a lower fee, but it is more likely that you will be competing with cybersquatters for your desired .MX domain name.

Practical Implications for Trademark Owners: Cybersquatters on .MX "Internet Real Estate"

So what happens if a cybersquatter stakes a claim on your desired .MX domain name before you do? You can file a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO"). The dispute will then be resolved according to NIC México's Política de Solución de Controversias en Materia de Nombres de Dominio Para .MX (the local domain name resolution policy or "LDRP"), to which all .MX domain owners are subject upon registration. This policy is very similar to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("UDRP") adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (also known as "ICANN").

Proceedings under NIC México's LDRP are decided by arbitrators from the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre. You can re-claim an already reserved domain name if you can prove the following:

  1. The desired domain name is identical or confusingly similar to your registered trademark, registered service mark, registered slogan or appellation of origin, or to a right known as a "reservas" (existing under Mexican copyright law);

  2. The current registrant has no right to or legitimate interest in the domain name; and

  3. The current registrant registered the domain name in bad faith or is currently using the domain name in bad faith.

Fees for these proceedings start at USD $1,500 for a decision by a single panelist, for up to five domain names. However, fees can climb to USD $5,000 or more if three panelists are requested to render a decision for multiple domain names. Additionally, NIC México's LDRP only protects registered trademarks and service marks, so common law trademark owners have no recourse to re-claim a .MX domain name that has already been registered by another party. Trademark owners should consider these potential costs when deciding on a .MX domain name registration strategy.

If you have questions about .MX domain names or how the reopening of the .MX ccTLD could affect your Intellectual Property rights, please contact Hillary Wucherer 414-277-5723 / hillary.wucherer@quarles.com or your Quarles & Brady LLP attorney.