Our main role at ICANN is to coordinate and manage those unique identifiers that make the Domain Name System work. It’s probably fair to say most Internet users in Africa, like elsewhere, don’t really care about the IP addresses assigned to their machines or the domain names under which their website or email systems operate. There’s even less understanding of trademark protection issues and dispute resolution systems.
It is against this backdrop that ICANN has organized an all-Africa Workshop on Domain Names, Trademarks and Users Rights Protection to be held in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, on May 5-6. The workshop is part of the strategy designed by Africa Strategy Working Group in 2012. The strategy has now become a new tool of engagement of ICANN with the Continent. Read about it here.
Indeed, in Africa, companies that develop websites generally choose user’s domain names for them. Most users have little knowledge of WHOIS – a simple tool that provides basic information about domain names. This can affect a user’s activity online as a domain name owner, for example, might not be aware of basic renewal information.
Moreover, very few people on the Continent care about registration of trademarks. The new gTLD program offers registrants the opportunity to choose among more than a thousand domain name extensions. Those who already have domain names could consider the option of registering them under new domains, (ccTLDs or gTLDs). But they also should have an understanding of Registrant Protection Mechanisms (RPM) inter alia, the Sunrise period and the Trademark Clearinghouse.
With many countries now organizing their own intellectual property rights structures, it would benefit them to understand the linkages, or lack there of, among domain names, brands and trademarks as well as intellectual property right protections mechanisms.
Therefore we thought it important to provide a venue to explore trademark protection and dispute resolution mechanisms at both the country code (ccTLD) and generic levels so that best practices could be shared with those developing such mechanisms.
That’s what the Cotonou Workshop will do – address the trademarks and rights protection issues that ccTLD registry managers, registrars and registrants in Africa are facing by providing a platform for experienced intellectual property practitioners to share their ideas. We believe it will empower African ccTLD managers and registrars to implement more quickly effective measures for their ccTLD security, management and promotion.
So let me invite you to join the Cotonou Workshop on May 5-6, 2014. More information is available at http://cot14.africanncommunity.org. See you there!
Yaovi Atohoun is ICANN’s Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager for Africa