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).
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.
• 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
If more than one party applies for the same domain name during the Sunrise Phase, the matter will be decided by way of auction.
The dotAfrica gTLD will provide several mechanisms to protect mark holders’ rights.
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.
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.
For more information, see the “dotAfrica Launch Strategy: Briefing for Priority Rights Holders” which is available here.
Ask your Domain Registrar or ISP about dotAfrica domain registrations. You may wish to participate in Sunrise if you have any rights to the name. Find a dotAfrica Domain Registrar here.
For the latest status updates, please visit dotafrica.org.
The .africa TLD will be launched in two phases, namely:
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.
This will depend on individual Registrar pricing, in which launch phase you register the domain and if the domain is a premium name or not.
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:
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.
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.
This functionality will be made available soon. Government Representatives must register first and domains must be accepted into the RNL to display data here. Please check back soon!