A recent California court decision will delay the use of the .biz domain for certain companies who pre-registered addresses using the new domain. In addition, the open registration for .biz domain names has been pushed back to November 7, 2001.
In May 2001, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) unveiled the new .biz top level domain (TLD) for websites with a "bona fide business or commercial use." According to ICANN, the .biz domain name is only available to businesses who exchange goods, services or property of any kind in the ordinary course of trade or business or facilitate the same. ICANN selected NeuLevel, Inc. as the registry operator to manage registration of .biz domain names.
NeuLevel implemented a multi-step process for companies that wanted to pre-register a .biz web address. This process included a pre-registration intellectual property claim procedure, the opportunity for applicants to withdraw conflicting applications and a notification-based system for registration to ensure fairness to all potential applicants. NeuLevel implemented various fees associated with steps in the registration process, including a mandatory $2 application processing fee per application and a $90 fee for an intellectual property claim. The registrars through whom applications for .biz domain names were filed with NeuLevel were also free to add their own processing fees to the fees charged by NeuLevel.
In the case of multiple applicants for the same .biz address, NeuLevel planned to randomly select a registrant from the applications. NeuLevel did not limit the number of times a company could apply for the same .biz domain name and neither NeuLevel nor the ICANN-approved registrars planned to refund the processing fees for companies whose applications were not randomly chosen for registration. According to NeuLevel and ICANN, NeuLevel used the processing fees to help cover costs of the pre-registration intellectual property claims. The application period ended on September 23, 2001.
In July 2001, David Scott Smiley, Smiley Productions and Skyscraper Productions filed a class action lawsuit against ICANN, NeuLevel and nearly 70 additional defendants, many of which are either domain-name registrars or affiliates, in Los Angeles County seeking to enjoin the .biz pre-registration process. In the pending class action suit, the plaintiffs argue that the $2 fee, and other fees charged by the registrars, when coupled with the random selection process of multiple registrants for the same .biz address, constituted an illegal lottery under California state law. The plaintiffs also alleged that NeuLevel and other registrars actually encouraged companies to submit numerous applications or "chances" to register a desired .biz domain name.
Judge Anthony Mohr of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction on October 11, 2001 ordering NeuLevel to stop the registration (or distribution) of any .biz domain name that was part of the "random selection" process. Although the injunction was dissolved because the plaintiffs failed to post bond, NeuLevel has indicated that it is currently assessing its options and may continue to suspend registration of the disputed names.
According to NeuLevel, the injunction involves fewer than 20 percent of the .biz applications because it only affects those applications for approximately 58,000 domain names with multiple applications. In an October 11 press release, NeuLevel stated that the remaining 80 percent of the .biz domain names would be "live" by October 23, 2001. If your company's .biz domain name registration was impacted by the October 11 decision, the registrar who processed your original application should be contacting you soon.
Further complicating the .biz registration process, NeuLevel announced on October 18 that it would delay open registration for .biz web addresses, originally set for October 23, until November 7, 2001. This interruption will allow NeuLevel to test its registration system for the expected demand. Starting November 7, any company can register a .biz domain name through an approved registrar on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you did not submit an application for a .biz domain name before September 23, the November 7 open registration presents your next opportunity to register and activate a .biz domain name.