Trademark holders and government bodies can start claiming their European identities on the Internet from 10 a.m. British time today, as the registers open for the new ".eu" domain name aimed at boosting European e-commerce.
The first steps towards a European Internet domain were taken in 1999 and later supported by the European Commission to encourage cross-border electronic commerce within the Union.
"This is the first time we see a geographic top level domain shared by multiple countries. It creates an e-commerce trading block the EU hopes to benefit by," said David Saias, vice president of sales for Register.com, one of the big registrar companies with which requests for domain names can be filed.
New EU member states such as Poland, which want a bigger presence on the Web, can use the ".eu" domain to be more visible and easier to find, he said.
But even in the traditional EU nations such as Germany, many companies currently register their Internet name under the national ".de" name instead of the ".com" space which is associated with American or global organisations.
If successful, the ".eu" domain could become the de facto domain for all European organisations, which would make it easier for companies and consumers to find and approach companies outside their home countries, Saias said.
"This '.eu' domain is a geographic marketing tool," he said.
For the first two months, close to 500 registrar companies will take down claims only for registered trademarks, public bodies and geographical locations in the European Union.
Companies, trade names, business identifiers and literary works can be registered for two months after that.
Starting April 7, all individuals within the 25 European Union member states can start filing their requests, said the not-for-profit EURid organisation which keeps the database for the .eu domain names.
The European Union had demanded a "sunrise period" before open registration to avoid "cybersquatting," which could result in trademarks being registered by parties other than their owners or companies having to pay massive amounts to buy their Internet domain names from speculators.
During the sunrise period, evidence of prior rights such as trademarks will be checked by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
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