Finding the Nexus Between Trademarks and Internet Domain Names


G. Peter Albert


VOL. XV • Winter 1997 • NO. 2 (table of contents)

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15 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 277


The Internet is a rapidly expanding global network. The Internet provides a virtual marketplace in which many small companies are given the opportunity to have increased leverage to compete with their larger corporate counterparts. Businesses are establishing their presence on the Internet through the creation of a domain name. The domain name is an alphanumeric address that identifies a specific location on the Internet. Each domain name reflects a distinct address that distinguishes it from any other. Similarly, qualification of a word or symbol as a trademark must include the following three elements: (1) "function" to identify and distinguish the seller's goods from others with similar goods; (2) adoption and use of the symbol by the manufacturer of the goods or services; and (3) a "tangible symbol" or device. In essence, trademarks must be distinctive enough to identify goods that bear its symbol. In contrast, despite the channeling of Internet users to a specific location in cyberspace, mere use of a domain name as a URL address may not be enough to qualify it as a trademark. In order to be characterized as a trademark, the Internet domain name must be used in a trademark manner which "identifies and distinguishes" the services or goods.

This article discusses the nexus between domain names and trademarks and the increasingly prevalent disputes arising over domain names and propriety rights. In addition, the article examines the flaws in current policies and procedures and reviews the establishment of a procedural requirement for applying for and maintaining domain names without inhibiting the open environment of the Internet.

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