Orderly Expansion of the International Top-Level Domains: Concurrent Trademark Users Need a Way Out of the Internet Trademark Quagmire


David B. Nash


VOL. XV • Spring 1997 • NO. 3 (table of contents)

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Organizations that want to conduct business on the Internet have to register with Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI). The Internet was created as a network designed by the Defense Department to test a fail safe network. The National Science Foundation connects to the Internet five supercomputing centers, which connects most public colleges to the Internet. The World Wide Web was the first service that was opened to individuals and for commercial use. Commercial success on the Internet depends on the ease with which consumers can find the organization on-line. If the company has established good will in the public, the company would want to use the established name in order to help consumers find the site. The domain name system fulfilled a need to make the Internet easy to use. The original domain name policy assigned domain names on a first-come, first-served basis. Currently, only five international top-level domains exist: .com, .edu, .net, .org, .int. Any organization from any country can register in an international top-level domain. Trademark statutes protect famous trademark owners. Congress passed the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995 in order to protect the interest of those who have expended time and effort in familiarizing the public with their marks.

The increase in the number of iTLD can come from the Internet community, or from competitive pressures, but these forces will not protect trademark owners. There are three general types of problems encountered by companies that have a "famous" name. The first problem is "domain name grabbing"; the second problem is "not quite domain name grabbing"; and the third problem is "innocent registrations of a logical choice." The first problem occurs when another corporation registers a famous name and holds it for ransom. The second problem occurs when a corporation registers the famous name and intends to use it. The third problem occurs when the famous name is share by corporations. NSI has attempted to resolve conflicts by changing registration policies. Market forces are not an appropriate vehicle for solving top-level domain name conflicts. The FCC should step in to correct this situation, and create an orderly manner to assign new iTLDs.

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