DENIC must delete domain names in case of abuse

The plaintiff is the Free State of Bavaria, whose territory is divided into seven administrative districts. The defendant is DENIC, a cooperative which allocates domain names with the top-level domain ".de". The plaintiff has established that six domain names were registered under this top-level domain for the benefit of several companies based in Panama, each formed from the word "government" and the name of one of its governmental districts (e.g. ""). The plaintiff, who has registered similar domain names for his governmental districts (e.g. ""), demands that the defendant cancel the registration of these domain names. The Regional Court and the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt a.M. upheld the action.

After the disputed domain names had been deleted in the meantime and these domain names had been registered for the plaintiff, the plaintiff declared the legal dispute on the merits to be settled. Since the defendant had not joined the declaration of settlement, it had to be decided whether the action was originally well-founded. The Federal Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative and ordered the defendant to pay the costs of the legal dispute.

It is true that, according to the "" decision of the Federal Court of Justice (judgment of 17 May 2001 - I ZR 251/99, BGHZ 148, 13), DENIC, which performs the tasks of registering domain names without the intention of making a profit, is only subject to limited duties of examination. No examination is required for the registration itself, which is carried out in an automated procedure solely according to priority aspects. But even if DENIC has been informed of a possible infringement, it is only obliged to delete the registration of the disputed domain name if the infringement is obvious and can be readily ascertained by DENIC. These conditions were met in the case in dispute. The names to whose infringement the plaintiff had drawn DENIC's attention were official names of the governments of Bavarian administrative districts. On the basis of such a reference, even a DENIC employee who has no knowledge of the law on names can easily recognise that these names, registered as domain names, belong solely to a state authority and not to a private company based in Panama.


Ruling of the Federal Supreme Court of 27 October 2011 - I ZR 131/10 -

Lower courts:

LG Frankfurt a.M. - Judgment of 16 November 2009 - 21 O 139/09

OLG Frankfurt a.M. - Judgment of 17 June 2010 - 16 U 239/09


Source: Press release of the BGH


Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2011

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law (IT law)