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The Dot-CA System: An Overview
By Eric Macramalla


The Canadian Internet Registration Authority ("CIRA") is a not-for-profit Canadian corporation mandated to operate the dot-ca country code top level domain name. CIRA sets policy for, manages and operates the dot-ca domain space for Registrars and Registrants. Like the dot-com registration process, dot-ca domain names are registered on a first-come first-served basis and there is no screening process.

Canadian Presence Requirements

In order to qualify to register a dot-ca domain name, a Registrant must satisfy one of the Canadian Presence Requirements as set out in the CIRA Policies, Rules, and Procedures - General Registration Rules, which sets out various citizenship, residency, ownership, location and membership requirements, all of which require a connection with Canada. A Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada ordinarily resident in Canada, and a Canadian corporation are among those that qualify for a dot-ca domain name registration.

A non-Canadian party only qualifies to hold a dot-ca domain name if it is the owner of a corresponding trade-mark registration; a pending trade-mark application or common law rights is not sufficient. Complicating matters is that a non-Canadian party may only apply for a dot-ca domain name that consists of, or includes, the exact word component of its registered trade-mark.

By way of example, a U.S.-based entity which owns a Canadian trade-mark registration for NEW YORK YANKEES is permitted to register newyorkyankees.ca and ilovethenewyorkyankees.ca, but may not register yankees.ca , even if the owner has acquired Canadian common law trade-mark rights in the mark YANKEES.

However, the owner of this mark may still file a domain name complaint in connection with yankees.ca, alleging bad faith registration. If successful, the trade-mark owner must transfer the domain name to a Nominee who satisfies a Canadian Presence Requirement. It is somewhat curious that a trade-mark owner may move against a domain name it is not qualified to register.

Foreign parties who wish to register a dot-ca domain name, but who do not own a corresponding Canadian trade-mark registration, have the option of incorporating a company in Canada and having that Canadian-based entity register the dot-ca domain name.

The Registration Rules specifically state that a party may not register or hold in trust a domain name on behalf of a party that does not qualify to register the domain name. Accordingly, Canadian law firms may not register domain names on behalf of foreign-based parties who are not otherwise eligible to hold the domain name.

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