The operational model for domain names .fi (Finland) and .ax (Åland Islands) changes, as the respective rules of the Finnish Electronic Communications Legislation, the Information Society Code (917/2014), will enter into force in this September.
The current domain system will cease to exist on 2 September 2016. The new registry-registrar broker model will be opened on 5 September 2016. So far banned domain names can be registered from 7 September 2016 at 10:00 am onward.
The new operational model clarifies the roles of Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) and registrars. This means that the current model, in which .fi and .ax -domain names can be directly applied from the Finnish ccTLD registry, will change so that only officially accepted registrars can apply for them in the future.
After the change, only registrars can apply for domain names and perform related changes – including renewals, transfers, terminations and other updating or changing register details.
The change will not affect the validity of registered .fi and .ax -domain names. Existing registrations will be valid also after the change. FICORA will remain as the administrator of the domain name register and it will supervise the operations of registrars.
Companies wishing to become a registrar must register with FICORA.
The new legislation provides that anyone can be accepted as a registrar. However, a registrar's obligations will increase significantly after the new domain system enters into force. All of the registrars must adhere to obligations laid down by the Information Society Code – in particular, requirements concerning information security.
The Information Society Code also contains provisions on domain name registrars’ obligations to report and provide information, and on the procedures related to the transfer of a domain name to another holder.
In the future, a domain name must always be registered in the actual user's name, and not in the registrar's name. Registrars only manage domain names on behalf of their customers. Additionally, the local presence requirement for applicants is abandoned. In the new system, foreign companies, organisations and private persons can obtain domain names.
Domain names consisting of a combination of a person's first and last names – firstnamelastname.fi – can also be freely registered. It is advisable to register domain names combining first and last names as soon as possible to ensure availability.
After the change, there are significantly less restrictions on domain holders – except for exceptional cases, such as a domain name which could be deemed forbidden, when FICORA could still refuse to register it.
This means that certain so far banned domain names can be registered from 7 September 2016 at 10:00 am onward, including, among others, domain names consisting of country codes e.g. se.fi, mc.fi or ao.fi.
Domains .fi and .ax may also be registered with the purpose of redelivery which has been so far illegal.
Protection of trade marks and other trade/business names remains unchanged. When applying for a domain name, one will have to ensure that it does not infringe another party’s protected marks or names. FICORA settles infringements related to protected trade marks and business names as an administrative procedure.
Very often national trade mark and trade name disputes also touch issues related to registered domains (e.g. the decisions of the Finnish Supreme Court KKO:2016:16 and the Finnish Market Court MAO:811/14, MAO:921/15 and MAO:234/16). Therefore, domain considerations should be reflected in a trade mark strategy.
In case your business starts providing respective services as a registrar, you may also want to consider expanding your current trade mark portfolio to cover, among others, services "registration of domain names", belonging to class 45, and "web hosting services" belonging to class 42 of the Nice Classification.