Curtains Fall on the Domain Names, Trademarks and User Rights Protection Workshop, Benin – Africa

by Pierre Dandjinou on May 13, 2014

ICANN Staff at Benin Workshop; Yaovi Atohoun, Pierre Dandjinou, Bob O'Chieng and David Olive

It is our pleasure to share with you a few highlights, key points and takeaways from the ICANN workshop which took place in Cotonou, Benin on May 5-6. It was part of the implementation and operationalization of ICANN’s Africa Strategy. Benin’s Minister for ICT, Komi Koutche and David Olive, ICANN’s VP for Policy Development Support and GM of our Istanbul hub opened the event. Akram Atallah, ICANN’s President of the Global Domaind Division delivered a personalized video message to the audience.

The workshop focused on 8 thematic areas developed within five panels:

  1. Strategies for protecting trademarks and domain names
  2. Update on the new gTLD program, TMCH and Domain Name Dispute Resolution – a users view
  3. Intellectual Property Rights (Global & African Environments, country case studies)
  4. Country Dispute Resolution mechanisms and
  5. Dispute Resolution best practices

An additional session provided information on WHOIS and anticipated changes to the protocol. For more details, you can visit the event website at http://cot14.africanncommunity.org.

Undoubtedly, this was a premier event not only for Africa but for the DNS industry as well. In Africa today, most registrants are not really concerned about the registration of their trademarks. But the introduction of the New gTLD program is giving registrants the opportunity to choose from more than a thousand domain names. ICANN took this opportunity to demonstrate the important linkage between domain names and Trademarks as well as with intellectual property and user rights protections.

During his opening address, Minister. Koutche said “the meeting was timely considering the role of the Domain Name Industry and of information and communication technologies in the social and economic development of the African people”

The workshop also was an opportunity to showcase ICANN’s multistakeholder model by engaging the legal fraternity in a structured manner and highlighting, how it too, can not only be part of the Africa DNS industry, but also get involved in the wider discussion on Internet governance.

After a day and a half of very candid and open discussions and presentations, participants were able to spell out key action points and recommendations including:

  1. Need for deepening engagement with trademark and Intellectual Property practitioners on the African continent.
  2. Need for training on dispute resolution mechanisms across the African continent.
  3. Greater collaboration between registries and registrars as well as trademark and Intellectual Property rights practitioners in tackling domain name related disputes.
  4. Need for a deeper understanding of Intellectual Property Rights and trademark laws among the judges in the African continent.
  5. Need for sufficient trademark and Intellectual Property capacity to be built in Africa through collaboration among the different stakeholders on the African continent.

Notable guests at the two-day event included Dr. Nii Quaynor, and ICANN VP for Africa, Pierre Dandjinou, in addition to more than 70 participants from various professional backgrounds – ccTLD managers (more than 25 African ccTLDs/countries), government representatives, African registrars, African I* groups such as AfriNIC, AFTLD, AFRALO, African ICT business sector, intellectual property and trademark experts from Africa . This was indeed an African moment!

Ultimately, the high participation level throughout the workshop showed demand for the meeting and the topics it covered. Many participants were grateful to ICANN and unanimous on the need to have more such workshops that address critical knowledge areas relevant to the DNS industry in Africa. This was an important first and a milestone for Africa and the Africa Strategy.

ICANN Africa team
Pierre Dandjinou, VP, Stakeholder Engagement, Africa
Yaovi Atohoun, Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager – Africa
Bob O’Chieng, Manager, Stakeholder Engagement, Africa

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