Geographical indications will soon get a new level of protection at EU level. Two regulations which should additionally unify the regulation of geographical indications in the EU are being adopted – for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products and the other for craft and industrial products.
Both regulations also contain provisions that establish new obligations for domain name registries, many of which, according to the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (CENTR), excessively interfere with the rights of domain holders and force registries to balance between the interests of holders of geographical indications and the interests of domain holders. In September 2022, CENTR published a comment (available here) discussing in detail the problematic provisions of both regulations. In particular, CENTR argues against the obligations of registries to revoke or transfer registered domains or to prevent registration of domains that infringe geographical indications at the request of their holders. CENTR emphasizes that the obligation to decide who has a stronger right to a certain domain should not be in the hands of domain registries, as disputes regarding infringement of intellectual property rights should be resolved by competent courts or providers of alternative dispute resolution procedures. CENTR also opposes the new obligation for registries to provide the EU Intellectual Property Office with data on registered domains that are identical or similar to registered geographical indications. Consequently, the registries are tasked with continuous monitoring and filtering of registered domains that are identical to registered geographical indications at the EU level or are sufficiently similar to them. The new obligations represent a significant administrative burden for domain registries, especially considering that infringements of geographical indications are extremely rare in the EU. This is also evident from the practice of the tribunal for alternative domain dispute resolution, operated by the .si Registry. Since the establishment of the tribunal in 2005, there has not been a single case where the complainant would claim an infringement of a geographical indication.