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Breaking News: The long wait for .AFRICA is over. Welcome dotAfrica! http://nic.africa More details to follow soon.

Introduction

Why should brand owners register a dotAfrica domain name?

dotAfrica is the new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) for the African continent: it is an African initiative created by Africans for Africans and the International Internet user community, including companies, organizations and individuals interested in, associated with and connected to the African community and markets.

The dotAfrica initiative is fully endorsed by the African Union Commission (AUC) and has widespread support across the continent – from African governments, the business sector, civil society and the technical community. dotAfrica is led by a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee with members from across the continent.

The dotAfrica registry will place special emphasis on securing the rights of intellectual property owners, Internet users and the broader African community. Africa is a fast-growing, economically active market with over one billion potential users. The dotAfrica gTLD will enable governments, business and civil society to build brands, promote development and establish long-term relationships with this market.

The dotAfrica registry will be operated by the ZA Central Registry (ZACR).


Why a dotAfrica domain name?

Africa is a rapidly developing market, and it is essential for brands seeking to entrench or expand their presence on the continent to take advantage of each new channel available to communicate and engage with this market.

We anticipate that as Africa “comes online”, a landrush similar to that for “.com” will occur for “.Africa”. Brands should extend their presence into the dotAfrica gTLD as early as possible to ensure that they secure their brand as a domain name. This will not only allow brands to make use of a new and effective channel, but will protect against possible speculative registrations.

 

Further benefits of a dotAfrica domain name are:

•    Show consumers that the brand identifies with the continent.
•    Showcase the brand and its commitment to Africa’s growth and development.
•    Expand the brand’s footprint and influence in the region.
•    Establish a home for Africa-specific services, products and information.
•    Acquire valuable online real-estate in a fast-growing high potential market.
•    Be seen to promote African interests in the digital domain.
•    Gain a competitive branding edge.

We have established a mechanism to allow brand owners to register domain names corresponding to their pre-existing rights. These so-called “priority rights” will allow brand owners to register dotAfrica domain names BEFORE dotAfrica is opened to general registrations (known as the “General Availability” or “Open Phase”).

Brand owners (or their legal representatives) will also be able to keep track of dotAfrica domain names that could potentially conflict with their dotAfrica domain name, or with their existing registered trade marks as the case may be.


Registering a dotAfrica domain name

Project Timelines

  • Applications for new gTLDs closed 30 May 2012
  • dotAfrica passed ICANN's initial evaluation stage
  • Expect dotAfrica gTLD approval in May 2014
  • Launch expected July 2014

 

The launch of the dotAfrica gTLD will take place in phases:

  1. Pre-Sunrise – African governments will secure a Reserved Names List (RNL) – names which are regarded as important, sensitive, offensive or otherwise in the general interest for the wellbeing of the gTLD will be reserved or blocked. “Pioneers” – partners assisting with raising awareness for dotAfrica before its launch – will also be able to enter their chosen names in the RNL at this time.
  2. Sunrise – a period when holders of trade marks and certain other rights (as described below) can apply to register domain names before the gTLD is opened to registrations by the general public. Contested names will be resolved by auction.
  3. Landrush – domain name registrations are opened to the public but contested names will be resolved by auction.
  4. Open Delegation – domain name registrations are open to the public on a first-come-first-served basis.

 

Sunrise and Priority Rights

The purpose of the Sunrise phase is to allow holders of pre-existing rights in word marks to register corresponding domain names before registration is opened to the general public, and hence protect their pre-existing rights to particular marks.

 

Holders of following will be recognised as having “priority rights” in the Sunrise phase:

  1. All nationally or regionally (i.e. multi-nationally) registered word marks
  2. Any word mark validated through a court or other judicial proceeding
  3. Any word mark protected by statute or treaty in effect at date of submission
  4. Company and trust names

Note that while marks recognised in any jurisdiction will enjoy priority rights, marks that are recognised in African countries will take preference over marks recognised elsewhere. Accordingly if a brand owner has a trade mark registered in several jurisdictions, it should use the trade mark registered in an African country for dotAfrica.

 

Validation of Priority Rights

In order to establish a priority right, a mark holder must first validate the mark. This is done by submitting a description of the mark along with the relevant supporting documentation to a validating service recognised by dotAfrica.

Two such services are envisaged for dotAfrica: the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), which is mandated by ICANN and operated by Deloitte, and the Mark Validation System (MVS), which is an alternative service to be operated by dotAfrica.

If a mark holder wishes to apply for domain names in more than one of the new gTLDs, it is advised to validate its marks using the TMCH, which will support the sunrise periods for all new gTLDs.

However, if a mark holder wishes merely to apply for a dotAfrica domain name, the expense of a TMCH validation might not be justified, and the mark holder should use the MVS. Moreover, the MVS provides services that are specifically tailored to dotAfrica, for example the indefinite mark claims service described below.

Once the mark has been validated, it will be entered in the TMCH or MVS as the case may be.

MVS - More information pertaining to the MVS will be made available here in due course. The application is currently in BETA.

 

Application During Sunrise Phase

The mark holder will be automatically notified of the commencement of the dotAfrica Sunrise Phase, and will be able to apply for a dotAfrica domain name corresponding to any word mark validated by the TMCH or MVS.

The mark holder will receive an SMD (Signed Mark Data) token from the TMCH or the MVS as the case may be for each mark that has been validated, and this token must be used when applying for the domain name to verify the mark holder’s identity.

The diagram below describes the process that will be followed:

 

Contested Domain Names

If more than one party applies for the same domain name during the Sunrise Phase, the matter will be decided by way of auction.


Protecting rights

The dotAfrica gTLD will provide several mechanisms to protect mark holders’ rights.

 

Mark Claims Service

The MVS and the TMCH will be used to provide a “claims service” for at least the first 90 days after the end of the Sunrise phase. Mark holders which have validated their marks will automatically receive a notification if a matching domain name is registered in the dotAfrica gTLD. Marks validated using the MVS will benefit from this service indefinitely (subject to a periodic subscription fee).

Moreover, applicants for dotAfrica domain names which match any mark in the TMCH or MVS will be required to undertake that they will not infringe the rights of that mark holder in operating the domain name.

 

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Several dispute resolution mechanisms (DRMs ) are available to mark holders whose rights have been violated by a dotAfrica domain name registration. These include the established Uniform Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) and the new Uniform Rapid Suspension policy (URS), both mandated by ICANN.

In addition to these, dotAfrica will be subject to its own dispute resolution mechanisms to give effect to its status as a geographic gTLD. These will not only allow mark holders to enforce traditional trade mark rights, but also a broader set of rights including commercial, cultural, linguistic, religious and personal rights.

The dotAfrica DRMs will moreover provide a remedy for so-called “offensive registrations”, where the use of the domain name in question is likely to give offence to any class of persons, particularly when the use thereof advocates prejudice or hate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture, sexuality, or incites causing harm on any of these grounds.


Further Information

For more information, see the “dotAfrica Launch Strategy: Briefing for Priority Rights Holders” which is available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ask your Registrar or ISP about .africa domain registrations. You may wish to participate in Sunrise if you have any rights to the name.

Although the ZACR has signed the Registry Agreement for the operation of the .Africa TLD, the launch is delayed because of an IRP process between ICANN and another applicant for the .Africa TLD. 

Read all about the IRP process and the latest updates here.

The .africa TLD will be launched in two phases, namely:

  • Sunrise and Landrush. For the Sunrise phase, trademark & brand names will be the priority. Landrush applications are usually for premium or sought-after domain names.
  • General Availability: This is the general open registration and continuous operations phase.

If you are a trademark holder ICANN prescribes a process, which we as the Registry Operator need to follow to ensure that genuine trademarks are protected and sold to the valid entity. The trademark holder will need to register their trademarks with the ICANN Trademark Clearing House or the Mark Validation System.

A .africa domain name will cost about $18 per annum.

This annual fee excludes the fees that registrars will charge the end users, and differs from the pricing for Sunrise, Landrush and Premium names. A full pricing schedule will be made available closer to the launch of .africa

There are various protection mechanisms and policies, which the Registry Operator needs to adhere to and we are also bound by ICANN to make these policies part of our operations.

The various policies include:

  • Rights Protection Policies
  • Dispute Resolutions
  • Sunrise Policy
  • Landrush Policies, etc

See the Policy menu item above for more information.

Pre-registration .africa domain names will not be possible. Any application submitted during the dotAfrica Sunrise phase must have a corresponding validation token (SMD) in order to obtain the highest possible priority allocation.

If an applicant wants to secure the best possible claim to a domain name application during the launch, it must be associated with a pre-validated trade mark in either the TMCH or MVS. Without this a claim to the corresponding domain name is relegated to lesser priority status. The official way in which you can best secure your rights to a name in the new .africa namespace would be through the pre-validation of a registered mark.

See the MVS at www.markvalidation.com for more information.

For more detailed information on the launch program with the anticipated timelines, click here. If you have any rights to the .africa domain/s name you want, you should apply during Sunrise.

dotAfrica is the new Top Level Domain (TLD) for the African continent: It is an African initiative created by Africans for Africans and the worldwide audience of companies, organisations and individuals interested in, associated with and connected with the African community and markets.

The dotAfrica initiative is fully endorsed by the African Union (AU) and has widespread support across the continent - from African governments, the business sector, civil society and the technical community. dotAfrica is led by a multi-stakeholder Steering Committee from across the continent.

Benefits of a dotAfrica TLD

  • Identify with the continent.
  • Showcase your brand and commitment to Africa's growth and development.
  • Expand your footprint and influence in the region.
  • Establish a home for Africa-specific services, products and information.
  • Acquire valuable online reale-state in a fast-growing high potential market.
  • Secure and protect your Intellectual Proerty Rights (IP).
  • Participate in Africa's online renaissance.