Why establishing a domain name legal strategy in Africa?
When it comes to protecting domain names (DN) in the European, US or Chinese markets, companies use to invest for protection and defense of their domain name’s assets.
Regarding Africa, it is a very disparate region because of the phenomenal differences between countries, but whose global emergence on the web is accelerating. Marked by the pressing need to improve Internet access, many African countries have multiplied meetings and strategies around technological sectors. The online sales sector is thus booming on the continent.
The explosive growth of the Internet and its access, which is gradually spreading to a wide spectrum of the population, is making real investments possible. What is more, online purchases are gradually becoming part of the consumption habits of African populations.
In such a context, the Internet naming strategy cannot overshadow the African continent, considered as the second most populous in the world, with more than 1.2 billion people.
Recently, many International companies faced domain name infringement from third parties in Africa, as happened for the company BMW in Malawi or BeIn Media Group LLC in Morocco, which highlight the importance of being digitally proactive in Africa.
Having said that, and similarly to other worldwide markets, establishing a legal strategy could be viewed through the same lens for registration (I) and defense and valorization (II) of the domain names in Africa.
1. Domain name protection in Africa
Africa is composed of 54 countries, each of which has an available country code top-level domain (ccTLD).
In order to determine which ccTLD to register in Africa, it is important to verify the followings:
define the main countries of your interest in Africa;
inform about Gross domestic product (GDP), population number and corresponded number of Internet users per country;
inquire about the most popular ccTLD in Africa.
According to our experience, we noticed a growing demand of domain name registration regarding the following extensions: .NG (Nigéria), .TZ (Tanzania), .ZA (South Africa), .MA (Morocco), .KE (Kenya), .EG (Egypt), .ET (Ethiopia).
For these countries, please note that the conditions of DN registration/ use are as follows:
Since 2017, there is a possibility to register the domain name “.AFRICA”. This extension could appear as a cost-effective solution as it covers the whole continent at a lower cost.
But how to choose between registering a .AFRICA or a local ccTLD? We believe that registering a Local ccTLD would be more interesting due the following reasons:
a website affiliated to a local ccTLD has a greater Web reference because of its natural referencing;
significant economic differences, web culture and internet used between the different African countries;
it is confirmed by local partners that the extension .AFRICA is not commonly used in many African countries such as in Morocco, Tanzania, Egypt or Ethiopia.
2. Defense and valorization of your domain name in Africa
Registering a DN in Africa brings many benefits including low costs. It empowers the company as it enables Internet users to identify the web activity.
Besides, we noticed an increasing number of infringing domain name cases in Africa. That’s why filing and monitoring the company’s DNs in Africa could ensure its digital business to be protected from other parties.
It happens that a third party registers a DN that is confusingly similar to a famous trademark or trade name. Such cybersquatting constitutes a deliberate attempt to take unfair advantages and to discredit the aggrieved company. Indeed, the fraudulent party would pretend to be one of the African subsidiary or authorized distributors of the trademark owner.
To avoid such a situation, an upstream DN protection strategy could be established by verifying the followings:
Would the DN be considered as a valid prior right before local authorities?:
Is there a possibility to locally file a complaint before an administrative authority? or before the Courts?
Is there any Regulatory Office that could be involved in DN’s disputes?
You will find below are our corresponded replies regarding the selected extensions, namely: .NG (Nigéria), .TZ (Tanzania), .ZA (south Africa), .MA (Morocco), .KE (Kenya), .EG (Egypt), .ET (Ethiopia).
If you have any question about the registration or defense of your domain name in Africa, please feel free to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCES: 1. Case No. DMW2015-000, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG v. Masakazu/Living By Blue Co., Ltd regarding the disputed domain name <b.mw>.: https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DMW2015-0001
2. Case No. DMA2018-0003, BeIN Media Group LLC v. BeforeAds, Mouad Jaafari regarding the disputed domain name <bein.ma>: https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DMA2018-0003
3. A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a top-level domain name that is used to define the domain for a particular country or a geographical area (source: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/1323/country-code-top-level-domain-cctld)