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Pros, cons of changes in domain naming

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

In January of 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will open the door for a new wave of generic top-level domain names. Traditional gTLDs like .com and .org will still exist, but soon, almost any word may be registered as a domain name. While the change may help some companies create stronger online identities, questions remain about whether pursuing a gTLD will be worth the cost and effort.

Reasons for the change

Charlie Meyer, head of the trademark practice group at Woodard Emhardt Moriarty McNett and Henry, explained the rationale behind the new development in domain names.
 

meyer-charlie-mug.jpg Meyer

“One of the reasons new gTLDs are being introduced is the perception that existing gTLDs such as .com have become scarce and some companies are fighting over the limited resources of a particular domain name,” he said.

ICANN says that it has introduced this change to support more global marketplace competition, allowing entrepreneurs, businesses, governments and companies to have their own top-level domains. But with an application fee of $185,000 and ongoing associated costs, the new gTLDs aren’t for everyone.

Chuck Fox, an intellectual property attorney for Maginot Moore & Beck, said that until ICANN announced this change in June, anyone could set up a .com domain for as little as $15 in the course of a lunch break. But with the low cost and ease of registration, domain names were often disputed after the fact, through ICANN’S Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution – a sometimes lengthy, costly and frustrating process for anyone who believed they were entitled to a particular domain name.

“With the current system, they sort of put the cart before the horse,” Fox said. “The new generic system that ICANN has proposed is sort of the opposite.”

ICANN’s new approach to gTLD registration comes with a thorough evaluation and public comment process, which in theory guarantees that when entities are granted a gTLD, it will not conflict with an existing gTLD. Because of the application fee, and the requirement that any gTLD applied for must be activated, people who have made money in the past by hoarding and reselling inactive domain names – or cybersquatting – will likely be shut out by the new process.

“The idea is: we’re gonna make it difficult to get these things,” Fox said. “Some guy sitting in his garage is not going to be cybersquatting.”

However, the new registration process will have no effect on the existing domain name system and its accompanying problems.

Pros and cons

Once the application process closes in April 2012, all applications will be posted for public comment. That means if a business is hoping to secure a gTLD for a product that is in development, competitors can find out what that product is by reviewing existing applications.

Fox recommends that corporate attorneys keep an eye on applications to watch for any gTLDs that could cause concerns about trademark infringement. He also recommends studying in advance how to formally object to gTLDs.


walsh-tom-mug.jpg Walsh

Tom Walsh, a partner with Ice Miller’s intellectual property group, said it’s hard to predict what will happen when ICANN opens the three-month registration process in January.

“One issue – probably the most prominent issue – is a particular word can be used for multiple companies,” Walsh said. “Think, for example, of ‘delta’ – there’s Delta airlines, and there’s Delta faucets.”

Neither company is in violation of the other’s trademark, because each offers distinct services. But two companies cannot register the same gTLD. When and if that happens, a company could file a “string dispute resolution,” if it believes the name – or string – of the other gTLD would be easily confused with its own gTLD or would lead to general confusion.

A gTLD can be as specific as “.hitachi,” or as vague as “.sports,” and whether the more generalized names will stand as gTLDs remains to be seen.

“If you’re taking a generic term like .sports, a wide category with a lot of things that people are interested in, from what I can tell they’re not necessarily going to prevent those top-level domains from being granted,” Fox said. But in this hypothetical scenario, another entity could challenge the application.

Securing a gTLD like .sports could be a good source of revenue for companies that have the finances and technical resources to operate as a registrar. The owner of .sports becomes a registrar, and if the domain name has a broad appeal, Meyer said, other companies might wish to register as a second level, or sub-domain under that gTLD (like .rowing.sports). The owner of the gTLD would set the fee for sub-domains.

Any business or entity serving as a registrar is responsible for sub-domains registered under its gTLD and should therefore make sure sub-domains aren’t infringing on trademarks. Fox said that attorneys who represent businesses applying for a gTLD should understand how to tackle trademark dispute resolutions, requests for information from law enforcement agencies, methods for handling spammers and all of the other complicated problems that can arise for registrars.

Meyer said that the introduction of new gTLDs does raise the risk of more trademark infringement issues.

“To some extent, standards and procedures to block inappropriate trademark use are being written into the implementation rules for new domain names,” Meyer said. “For example, we are currently in a window (expiring on Oct. 28) to file requests to exclude people from registering .xxx domain names using someone’s registered trademark.  Similar exclusion options may be implemented into other new gTLDs. Additionally, companies in certain industries may have priority to obtain top-level or second-level domain names associated with their industry.  For example, established companies in the adult entertainment industry have priority to obtain .xxx domain names.”

Taking the plunge

Fox recommended a few key steps attorneys should take if helping a client apply for a gTLD, and that begins with knowing the exact names a client is interested in pursuing. And if attempting to register a trademark, the company should be able to prove it owns the mark.

“Make sure your client has the financial means to pay for the registration and can show proof of ongoing financial solvency to satisfy ICANN during the application process,” Fox said. “The registration and yearly fees will only be part of the expenses required to run a gTLD.”

A company must also be able to demonstrate that it has the technological and legal infrastructure to run a gTLD, as well as proper hardware.

Assuming everything goes according to plan and there are no challenges to the application, Fox said it would be at least nine months from the initial filing before a company could begin using its new gTLD.

“We’re waiting to see just how this is going to play out – what sort of top-level domains are going be snapped up, how popular they’re really going to be,” Walsh said. “It wouldn’t have gotten this far if there hadn’t been some demand for these top-level domains.”•

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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