/ Domain law

When it comes to domains and legal issues, most people automatically think of disputes. These days everyone appreciates that the law also applies to the Internet, and the heyday of domain grabbing is also nothing but a distant memory. In fact, during the last 15 years 1,600 .at-domains were the subject of documented disputes, and only one tenth of the disagreements end up in court. By now, most of the legal questions surrounding the world of domains have already been settled by the courts.

No legal check at initial registration

nic.at does not check at initial registration whether there are rights being infringed, because if it did, registration would take weeks or months. As a result, checking whether rights are being infringed is the domain holder's responsibility. If a domain name infringes against your name, trademark or labelling rights, please contact the nic.at Legal Department.

Illegal domain names and nic.at's role

The allocation of .at domains is based on the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) and the Registration Guidelines of nic.at. These also specify the circumstances under which nic.at may cancel (i.e. delete) a domain name. The onus is on the domain holder to check whether a domain name infringes third party rights, such as the rights to a name or trademark rights, so this is not checked by nic.at at registration. nic.at is only obliged to act when notified that rights have been infringed. Usually, a wait status is activated for the domain name in question, until the parties in dispute have come to an agreement. nic.at then implements what the parties have agreed or, if applicable, what a court has decided.

Tried and tested solution for when disputes arise: the wait status

The wait status is a temporary ban on change of domain holder. It guarantees that the domain name holder remains the same for the duration of the dispute, so a holder cannot simply get out of the situation by giving the domain to someone else. Wait status can be requested by anyone who can demonstrate that their rights have been infringed. The domain continues to function normally during this time.

The big misconception: winning a court case does not mean the domain name has been secured!

Often, after disputes over domain names, the plaintiff can become frustrated. Even when the plaintiff has won a court case and the defendant must give up the domain due to an injunction, this does not mean that the domain is automatically transferred to the plaintiff. An injunction requires that the domain in question be deleted. After deletion, the domain name becomes free again and available for registration on a first-come, first-served basis. So it may well be that the party whose rights were infringed still does not get what it wanted. Our Legal Department’s tip: an out of court settlement where change of holder is agreed is preferable, enabling transfer of the domain without any hassle.

The competition never sleeps ...

It happens to all businesses, from a small tanning shop to a well-known news magazine. Your product is ready for market, your business cards are printed, your advertising campaign is underway... but in all the heat of starting a new business, you suddenly realise that you have forgotten to register the domain name you need. And sometimes, the competition has got there first, or the domain name was registered to someone else a long time ago. By that point, unfortunately, nic.at can’t help anymore either... for domain names are allocated strictly according to the first-come, first-served principle.