Domain Name Registration
New Zealand does not have legislation specifically concerned with domain names.
ICANN’s appointed registry for New Zealand is InternetNZ, who in-turn has appointed the Domain Name Commission as the Registration Authority. The Domain Name Commission develop and monitor a competitive registrar market, as well as create a fair environment for the registration and management of .nz domain names. Applicants for .nz domain names do not need to be either a national or resident of New Zealand. Nor do they require a related New Zealand trade mark.
Most registrars offer renewal terms ranging from 1 year to 10 years.
From an intellectual property perspective, domain name issues can be considered in light of the Trade Marks Act 2002, Fair Trading Act 1986, Copyright Act 1994 and the tort of passing off. The Domain Name Commission offers a dispute resolution service, but many intellectual property related issues are heard initially in the High Court. One reason for this is that even if a claimant is successful under the dispute resolution process they will not be awarded costs, whereas they can be awarded costs by a Court.
Trade mark infringement requires, amongst other things, that the sign complained of is used in a trade mark sense. Hence the mere registration of a domain name without use would not constitute trade mark infringement, although the Courts can take into account likely future use. Even if the domain name has an associated website, if it does not offer or promote goods or services it is unlikely to be found to constitute use in the trade mark sense.
Unlike trade marks, domain names cannot be registered in relation to specific goods or services. Hence, it is possible for two or more traders to want to obtain the same domain name for valid reasons. Even if a trader has a significant reputation in a mark, that does not guarantee that they can obtain an order requiring another registrant to give them an associated domain name. The above issues aside, most disputes in relation to domain names would normally be resolved along usual trade mark principles. Domain names containing more distinctive marks are likely to be found to rightfully belong to the party with prior trade mark registration or common law rights.