From tomorrow (Tuesday, 04 April 2017) trademark owners can secure dotAfrica domain names matching their registered trademarks before the new dotAfrica (.africa) generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) is launched to the public in July.
The dotAfrica Sunrise Period will run for the next sixty days and will see the securing of valuable brand names in the form of registered trademarks and unregistered, validated trademarks.
“During Sunrise, brand owners across Africa will be encouraged to apply for dotAfrica domain names that match their registered or validated intellectual property,” says Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZA Central Registry Non Profit Company (ZACR NPC).
According to Mr Masilela, 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 community. In order to ensure responsible growth, the dotAfrica registry will place special emphasis on securing the rights of intellectual property owners, Internet users and the broader African community during the Sunrise Period and beyond,” he explains.
Africa is home to an array of world-leading brands valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars that require protection. The Africa Brand Index by Ornico lists the following amongst the top 25 social media brands on the continent: SuperSport, Woolworths, Vodacom, Safaricom, FirstBank, Jumia, Airtel, Pick n Pay, MTN and others. For its part, Brand Africa has at least six homegrown African brands included in its global listing of the Top 100 Most Valuable Brands.
“Brand owners should extend their presence into the dotAfrica gTLD from this week to ensure that they secure their chosen brand as a workable domain name,” says Masilela.
This week’s Sunrise Period follows last week’s news that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) approved the launch plan and dates for dotAfrica. ICANN’s approval of the dotAfrica Launch Plan has triggered a final countdown process starting on 4 April 2017 leading to General Availability on 4 July 2017 when the public can apply for dotAfrica domain names.
Confirmation of the dotAfrica launch dates follows the delegation by ICANN of the rights to administer the new, pan-African dotAfrica gTLD to ZACR on 15 February 2017. Delegation means dotAfrica names can be published on the web.
Law firm Webber Wentzel describes the three dotAfrica launch phases as follows:
* Sunrise Period (4 April 2017 – 2 June 2017) – during the Sunrise Period, trademark owners can secure domain names matching their registered trademarks before .africa is made available to the public. A Trade Mark Clearing House (TMCH) must first validate the registered trademarks. Alternatively, and specifically for the .africa gTLD, a system called Mark Validation System (MVS) will be used to validate trademarks which are not yet registered, company names, trust names and common law trademarks (as well as registered trademarks for trademark proprietors who do not wish to validate through the TMCH).
* Landrush Period (Phase 1: 5 June – 9 June; Phase 2: 12 June – 16 June; Phase 3: 19 June – 23 June; Phase 4: 26 June – 30 June) – this registration is open to everyone around the world without any restriction, but the registration is sold at a higher price than the regular price.
* General Availability (4 July 2017) – registration will open to the general public and works on a “first come, first served” basis.
Finally, the benefits of a dotAfrica domain name for brand owners are manifold. They include showcasing the brand and its commitment to the continent, establishing a home for Africa-specific products and services, and expanding the brand’s regional influence, acquiring valuable online real-estate in a fast-growing and high-potential market.