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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Goof and Cyrillic Putin.com Was Gone

Cybersquatters have been handed a whole new world to conquer — Russian-language Internet addresses. And from the look of things, they have taken a giant step toward claiming victory.

Thousands of Cyrillic names for Internet addresses ending in com, org and net have been scooped up since they became available on Feb. 26.

And many of them — including the cyrillic addresses for Coca-Cola and Putin — have been nabbed by cybersquatters who most likely want to earn an easy buck selling the names to the highest bidder.

Such a play for Internet names is no surprise, but companies are complaining that cybersquatters got more names than they should have due to a goof by the Cyrillic domain registrar, RosBusinessConsulting.

A number of Moscow-based companies were caught off-guard when RosBusinessConsulting, abruptly announced at 4 p.m. on Feb. 26 that they could immediately register addresses in the Russian language.

Thousands of people nonetheless rushed to register, assuming that they would be able to secure the addresses of their choice.

But within 24 hours RBC realized that it was unprepared to handle the onslaught of applications when multiple registrations for the same domain names were accepted by its registration system.

"When 10, 20, 30 orders were coming in every second … we understood that it's physically impossible to deal with such a flood," said RBC spokeswoman Olga Kartashova. "So we decided to register in a completely different way."

RBC canned online registrations.

Over the next week RBC representatives called and e-mailed those who had unsuccessfully attempted to register, telling them that they had to pay the $30 registration fee if they wanted to reserve their names. But by the time many would-be domain owners learned about the new rules it was too late.

"Of course, we made a mistake. We didn't calculate correctly," Kartashova said.

Some companies were still unaware this week about the opportunity to register their names in Cyrillic.

"Oh, this is interesting," said Raimo Niukkanen, head of Nokia's Moscow office, upon hearing about Cyrillic domain names — and upon realizing that his company's name had already been taken by a company called PRAMO-K.

"Even if we wouldn't use it we would still like to reserve it," Niukkanen said.

PRAMO-K, which has also laid claim to the Russian-language domains for adidas and Reebok, did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

RBC posts which names have been registered on its site (solutions.rbc.ru/domains).

A check of the site found that a Mikhail Iionin was hard at work in the early hours of Feb. 27, registering the names Playboy, Mobile TeleSystems and LUKoil, just to name a few.

Reached by telephone, Ionin declined to comment on why he had registered so many names and what his day job is.

RBC said that Ionin arrived at its Moscow office at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 27. Under the universal first-come, first-serve rule of domain registering, Ionin paid for the addresses he wanted and left a satisfied customer.

RBC was granted the right to register Cyrillic names by Network Solutions, the U.S.-based company that registers English-language names ending in com, org and net.

Lawyers and registrars say it's impossible to weed out cybersquatters. And fighting them in court is difficult.

"It's highly automated with hundreds of thousands of registrations going through each month and so, as a result, there's simply no way to build a system which could catch every single different possible name," said Marcello Hunter of Network Solutions.

There have been a handful of court decisions in Russia so far over the dot.ru domain. But companies and people who feel they have a legitimate right to their name in the dot.com zone must appeal to the same international arbitration courts that hear other disputes over domain names.

The only international arbitrator dealing with non-English domain disputes to date is the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, which as of last week had six such cases on its books. All of the disputes were over names in Japanese or Chinese, which were among the first languages to become available for registration last November.

Patricia Simo-Sartorius, a lawyer in the WIPO arbitration and mediation center, said she is ready to handle any Russian-language cases.

But some Russia-based companies may not want to go through the hassle.

"You can find 10 companies that have MTS initials, and we already have two well recognized sites, mts.ru and mts.gsm.com," said MTS spokeswoman Eva Prokofeva. "So we question the necessity to actively start pushing this idea. It might not be worth it."

The battle for Russian domain names is far from over. Companies — and cybersquatters — will have a fresh chance to lay claim to another set of domain names in the upcoming months when Cyrillic names are introduced in the dot.ru zone.

"We'll try to announce it early," said Alexei Lesnikov of the dot.ru registrar, Russian Institute for Public Networks.

http://solutions.rbc.ru/domains RBC's list of registered domains.

http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm ICANN's links to international arbitration courts.

http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/ The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization.

http://www.ripn.net RosNIIROS