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10,000 .eu names suspended amid cybersquatter allegation

Owner files retaliatory suit

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The organisation behind the .eu domain has suspended 10,000 domain names registered by a Chinese woman whom it accuses of being a cybersquatter. The woman, in retaliation, has filed a lawsuit in Belgium.

EURid, the Belgium-based registry for .eu domain names, has blocked the names and has the right to strip the woman, Zheng Qingyin, of the names. EURid legal manager, Herman Sobrie, told OUT-LAW, though, that the organisation wanted to have a court strip Qingyin of the addresses. He said that case would take about a year.

Qingyin has filed a separate suit objecting to the blocking of the domains in the Court of First Instance in Brussels. This is a fast-track case whose result should be known in a month, Sobrie said.

"This Chinese woman has registered over 10,000 names, she is without doubt cybersquatting," said Sobrie. "We know she sells these names to people for serious prices. This is a phenomenon we don't like at all, but there is nothing illegal about this."

EURid cannot take action against someone for cybersquatting; that can only be done by someone else who claims rights to a domain name. But Sobrie said that EURid had received complaints about the woman and had investigated further.

"We as register can just stand there and look at it except in one situation, which is that maybe this registrant is not eligible to have a .eu domain," said Sobrie. Only people or organisations that are based in the European Union are entitled to hold .eu addresses.

"We started asking for more information about her domicile. She said she was domiciled in London. At first we took that for granted, but we had indications that that was probably not true," he said. "We have serious doubts about the eligibility of that lady and at a certain point we thought we had enough reason to say that she wasn't eligible. Under the circumstances we preferred to sue in a Belgian court and have the names revoked by the court rather than do it ourselves and be sued."

Sobrie would not detail the basis of EURid's suspicions ahead of the court case. He did say that he was sure that the woman was cybersquatting.

"When we screen our data bank we see that some people have an amazing amount of names. Nobody needs 10,000 names," he said. "We had a lot of complaints from people complaining to us that they were contacted or they contacted the holder, who said 'make an offer and we'll sell it'. We know the prices were between €500 and €1500."

Last year EURid suspended more than 74,000 domain names and sued 400 registrars for registering the names with a view to re-selling them, in breach of the contract between registrars and the registry.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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