In December 2004 the Hamburg Landgericht ruled (324 O 375/04 - decision subject to appeal) that the country-code top level domain (ccTLD) .at, which is assigned by the Austrian registrar Nic.at GmbH, has no direct reference to Austria.
The case was brought to the court after an Austrian company Sartorius GmbH sued German citizen Mr Sartorius for the deletion of the domain name sartorius.at. Aside from the discussion on the litigants' rights, the court ruled that "the fact that the defendant registered and used the domain without residing in or doing business in Austria was not seen as sufficient reason to grant deletion of the disputed domain name. It is undisputed that Nic.at allows the registration of .at domains irrespective of whether the applicant has a seat or residence in Austria. The court also stated that ccTLDs do not possess sufficient distinction. Internet users do not necessarily expect a reference or connection to Austria when opening an internet site with an .at TLD. Finally, the court referred to the common practice of using certain ccTLDs not as a geographic reference, but rather as continuation of a name (usually company names). Prominent examples quoted by the court include the ccTLDs .ag, which is used as the geographic reference to Antigua or Barbuda (AG being the German abbreviation for 'Aktiengesellschaft', which means 'stock company') and .tv, which is used as the geographic reference to Tuvalu (TV being short for 'television' and thus referring to businesses related to television, radio and the general media). [From Preslmayr Attorneys at Law, written for International Law Office]