Cybersquatting: The New Age of URLs and Their Impact on Trademarks

By Rob Hassett and Suellen Bergman

Hassett Cohen Goldstein & Port, LLP
990 Hammond Drive, Suite 990
Atlanta, GA 30328
(770) 393-0990
http://www.internetlegal.com

I. Introduction

The Internet is a source of frequent disputes regarding the use of trademarks and service marks as domain names. This paper addresses the cases and statutes relating to these issues.

II. Infringement and Dilution Decisions

The following is a sample of Internet-related cases concerning trademark infringement and trademark dilution.1 These cases first address trademark uses on the Internet which are clearly prohibited, then cases that are closer questions, and finally uses of another’s trademark that are clearly legal.

A.  Domain Names, Metatags or Marks in a Site Which Could Confuse the Public

1. Courts usually prohibit trademark uses where consumers are likely to be confused because two marks are similar and used in the same channels of trade. See Playboy Enter. v. Calvin Designer Label, 985 F. Supp. 1218 (N.D. Cal. 1997).

2. Even when marks are not used in the same channels of trade, courts may restrict the use of similar marks in the Internet arena. “[W]ith respect to Internet service, even services that are not identical [but which do use similar trademarks] are capable of confusing the public.”2 See GoTo.com, Inc. v. Walt Disney Co., 202 F.3d 1199, 1207 (9th Cir. 2000) (finding that Disney’s “Go Network” logo infringed the plaintiff’s “GoTo” Web site logo, and that even if Disney limited its search portal to the entertainment and leisure areas, Disney’s logo could still be confused with plaintiff’s “GoTo” site because both Web sites feature a search engine).3

B. Dilution of Famous Marks (Federal Anti-dilution Act enacted in 1996)

Where a mark has become “famous” it is entitled to protection not only from “confusion” but also from tarnishment and blurring. For example, it is not likely that customers using the adult site “Adults ‘R’ US” thought that the site was operated by or associated with “Toys ‘R’ US.” As discussed below, the use of that domain name was nevertheless illegal.

1. Toys “R” US, Inc. v. Adults “R” US, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17090, 40 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1836 (N.D. Cal. 1996). The Court awarded a preliminary injunction to Toys “R” Us, finding that its marks are famous and distinctive and, thus, eligible for protection from dilution under 15 U.S.C. § 1125. The Court also enjoined the defendants from using “Adults ‘R’ Us” because it tarnishes the “‘R’ Us” family of marks by “associating them with a line of sexual products that are inconsistent with the image Toys ‘R’ Us has striven to maintain for itself.” 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17090 at *7.

2. Similarly, in Mattel Inc. v. Internet Dimensions Inc., et al., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9747, 55 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1620 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), the Court granted an injunction against the defendant barring further use of Mattel’s trademark “Barbie” and ordered that the domain name barbiesplaypen.com, which the defendant had used for pornographic photos, be transferred to Mattel.4

3. Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows v. Utah Div. of Travel Dev., 170 F.3d 449, 50 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1065 (4th Cir. 1999), held that Ringling Brothers could not prevent the state of Utah from using “The Greatest Snow on Earth” as a slogan for Utah’s winter sports attractions. The Court determined that the Federal Anti-dilution Act required a showing of “actual economic harm” to the famous marks’ value by lessening its selling power as an advertising agent for its goods or services.5 Proof of this harm should be demonstrated by conducting surveys and by showing actual loss, but was not shown in this case.

C. Cybersquatting: The First Cybersquatting Cases (Registering Domain Names With the Sole Intent to Resell Them)

1. Panavision, Int’l, L.P. v. Toeppen, 945 F. Supp. 1296, 40 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1908 (C.D. Cal. 1996). The Court found that defendant’s registration of a domain name, which was identical to the plaintiff’s trademarks, in order to sell the domain name to the trademark owner constituted trademark dilution.

2. Accord Intermatic, Inc. v. Toeppen, 947 F. Supp. 1227, 41 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1223 (N.D. Ill. 1996), aff’d, (9th Cir. 1998). The plan to resell the domain name was determined to be “commercial use” which is required to constitute dilution.

D. Hijacking (Registering of Competitor’s Domain Name)

1. Until recently, registration of a competitor’s mark as a domain name (hijacking) was legal: see Juno Online Servs., L.P. v. Juno Lighting, Inc., 979 F. Supp. 684 (N.D. Ill. 1997), 44 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1913. See also HQM Ltd. and Hatfield Inc. v. William B. Hatfield, 71 F. Supp. 2d 500 (D. Md. 1999) (holding that the registering a Web site with the “.com” designation and activating it for e-mail does not, by itself, constitute commercial use). Hijacking with “bad faith intent to profit” is now illegal under the recently enacted Anticybersquatting Act, discussed below.6

2. The Barcelona City Council in Spain filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)7 against a tourism company which had registered Barcelona.com. The tourism company claimed that this was a case of “reverse hijacking.” The WIPO panel rejected this claim and awarded the Barcelona.com domain name to the City Council. The panel decided that the City Council had “better rights” to the name than the tourism company because Internet users looking for information about Barcelona would expect to reach an official representative or agency of the city of Barcelona. Furthermore, the WIPO panel determined that the tourism company was taking advantage of the public’s confusion and was therefore guilty of bad faith.8 This decision not only puts into question the rights of those who own geographic domain names, but also has been the subject of much criticism.9 The tourism company plans to challenge this decision by filing a new action in a United States court.10 Contra Kur-und Verkehrsverein St. Moritz v. StMoritz.com, where the complainant, an official organization of the town of St. Moritz did not obtain the domain name stmoritz.com.11 The respondent used the domain name to present information about St. Moritz and Switzerland, and, therefore the WIPO arbitrator found that the respondent lacked bad faith and may have a right or legitimate interest with respect to the name.12

E.  Deep Linking Which Creates Confusion

One of the Internet’s most useful features is the ability to directly connect from one Web site to another. A user makes this connection by clicking on an icon or words, called a “hyperlink” or “link.” Linking is not only an essential aspect of the Internet, but it is beneficial to users because it enables them to quickly find information on topics of interest. Likewise, it benefits Web site owners by increasing visits or traffic to their Web site, and therefore Web site operators sometimes encourage links to their site. For example, some Web sites encourage linking if the link is not confusing or misleading, and have policies which permit linking in certain circumstances: www.gateway.com and www.bellatlantic.com.

There are some instances, however, where the link is constructed in a manner that confuses or misleads the user by implying that the linked Web sites have an affiliation, such as endorsement or sponsorship. Those instances give rise to legal disputes.

1. Ticketmaster Corp. v. Tickets.com, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4553, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1344, (C.D. Ca. 2000). Tickets.com operates a Web site which provides information about sporting and entertainment events. Tickets.com’s Web site linked a user directly to the Ticketmaster Web page where a user can order tickets to the posted events. This kind of connection, where the link directs the user to an interior page of another Web site and bypasses the linked-to Web site’s home page, is known as “deep linking.” In Ticketmaster, the Court held that linking to another Web site does not in itself constitute a violation of the Copyright Act. The Court reasoned that the linking function does not actually involve copying material from the copyright owner’s Web site because the user is “automatically transferred to the particular genuine Web page of the original author.” Ticketmaster, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4553 at *6. Therefore, the Court dismissed Ticketmaster’s copyright infringement claim. Id. at *4.

However, the Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss Ticketmaster’s claims of unfair competition and trademark infringement because of plaintiff’s allegations that Tickets.com falsely implied an association with Ticketmaster through deep linking. Thus, this decision suggests that where linking causes a likelihood of confusion as to the source or sponsorship of a Web site or of goods or services offered on a Web site, the linking can constitute unfair competition. Deep linking can cause problems for the linked-to Web site if its advertisers pay on the “basis of the number of ‘hits’ on the home page, [because the advertiser] will not pay for deep-linked reference to the interior home page. Further, the allegation is made that bypassing the home page enables the customer to avoid the terms and conditions, which are not available to him on the [deep linked] events page.”13

2. Ticketmaster Corp. v. Microsoft, Inc., CV 97-3055 RAP (C.D. Cal. filed April 28, 1997). Ticketmaster filed a similar lawsuit against the Microsoft Corporation, claiming that Seattle Sidewalk, Microsoft’s online entertainment guide, illegally linked to its Web site.14 The parties settled this case in March 2000.

F. Registering the Domain Name That is a Mark (Not Necessarily the Mark of a Competitor)

Registering a domain name with “intent to profit” would now be illegal under the Anticybersquatting Act (which created a new §43(d) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(d)). Before the Anticybersquatting Act was enacted, registering a domain name — without more — would not constitute either “use in commerce” or “commercial use,” which was required under the Lanham Act to establish a violation. See National Westminster Bank PLC v. Purge I.T., et al., WIPO Case No. D2000-0636 (transferring natwestsucks.com to the trademark owner where there was bad faith evidence of attempting to “ransom” the domain name, even though the domain name had never been used).

G. Registering a Domain Name That is a Common Word or Mark

Cello Holding v. Lawrence-Dahl Companies, 89 F.Supp. 2d 464, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d 1645 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (summary judgment denied to Plaintiff because many companies use “cello” as a mark and it is a common word).

H. Using Mark to Criticize a Product or Service (Rather Than to Actually Sell Products or Services)

Disenchanted consumers vent frustrations about a given company on the Internet, frequently on a “sucks site” which targets particular companies. The most well-known such forums are Starbucked, Aolsucks, and noamazon.com.15 If such a site uses a company’s trademark for noncommercial criticism, it runs afoul of trademark law if it confuses or tricks consumers into believing that the site is sponsored or affiliated with the company.16 On the other hand, parody is legal if the parody is sufficiently distinguishable from the original to be recognizable as a parody (i.e. the parodist will likely lose a case if he is using the parody to promote a product related to the original) and where there is a meaningful connection between the subject of the parody and the ultimate message.17

1. In Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. v. Faber, 29 F. Supp.2d 1161, 50 U.S.P.Q. 2d (BNA) 1840 (C.D. Cal. 1998), the defendant used Bally’s trademark in a Web site entitled “Bally sucks,”18 which criticized the service at Bally’s fitness centers. The District Court dismissed Bally’s suit because the defendant’s use of Bally’s mark did not create a likelihood of confusion or otherwise constitute trademark infringement or dilution.

2. While it should be obvious to an Internet user that a “sucks” domain name is not the company’s official Web site and that the company has not sponsored that Web site, some recent cases have nevertheless ordered that “sucks” domains be transferred to the trademark owner. However, in some of those cases, the requisite bad faith evidence was present. For example, Wal-MartCanadaSucks.com and WalMartPuertoRicoSucks.com were transferred to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in an ICANN arbitration (discussed infra) decision.19 While the registrar of those sites contends that he used those sites to solicit consumer complaints about Wal-Mart, the arbitrator noted that at one point he “demanded ‘consulting fees’ from Wal-Mart in return for having alerted the company to the availability of several other domain names based on its moniker.”20

3. In People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Doughney, CA No. 99-1336-A, E.D. Va., June 12, 2000, the animal rights organization was awarded the domain name peta.org, which was registered by the defendant for the fictional organization People Eating Tasty Animals. The Court rejected defendant’s parody and trademark misuse defense stating that no parody existed (since an Internet user would not know that he was not at PETA’s official Web site until after using PETA’s mark to access the Web site and “a parody exists when two antithetical ideas appear at the same time”).21

4. A complaint has been filed against several domain names which purport to protest Guinness Beer: Guinness-Sucks.com, Guinness-Beer-Sucks.com, Guinness-Beer-Really-Sucks.com, Guinness-Beer-Really-Really-Sucks.com, and variations of the above addresses without the hyphens.22

5. Verizon Communications attempted to preempt a “sucks” parody site and itself registered “verizonsucks.com”23 as well as fifty-six other self-critical names.24 Nevertheless, Web publisher 2600.com registered “verizonreallysucks.com” and promptly received a cease and desist letter.25 Consequently, 2600.com responded by registering the name “VerizonShouldSpendMoreTimeFixingItsNetworkAndLessMoneyOnLawyers.com.”26 Verizon stated that it’s goal was to act against approximately two hundred genuine cybersquatters who had registered Verizon related names with the hope of selling them, so Verizon’s legal department sent warning letters to everyone, including 2600.com.27 Verizon’s spokesperson Larry Plumb said that 2600.com was the one exception and “once we saw it met the standards of fair use, we decided not to pursue it. We’re out to defend our brand against confusion and dilution, not squelch free speech.”28

I. Use of Mark to Communicate or Describe Truth About a Site

Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Welles, 7 F.Supp.2d 1098, 47 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1186, (S.D. Ca. 1998), aff’d, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 27739 (9th Cir. 1998). A former playmate was permitted to state her association with Playboy Enterprises, Inc. (PEI) 29 on her own Web site. The heading of the defendant’s Web site is “Terri Welles–Playmate of the Year 1981,” and the title of the link page is “Terri Welles–Playboy Playmate of the Year 1981.” Each page uses “PMOY ’81” as a repeating watermark in the background. According to defendant, eleven of the fifteen free Web pages include a disclaimer at the bottom of the page which indicates that the Web site is not endorsed by Playboy. Id. at 1100. Playboy moved for a preliminary injunction which would enjoin the defendant (1) from using the trademarked term “Playmate of the Year” in the title of the home page and the link page; (2) from using the watermark “PMOY ’81” in the background; and (3) from using the trademarked terms “Playboy” and “Playmate” in the meta-tagging 30 of defendant’s site. The Court denied a preliminary injunction because the trademarks that defendant uses, and the manner in which she uses them, describe her and identify her. Therefore, the Court held that the defendant has made a “fair use” of these marks 31 and her site is not confusingly similar to Playboy’s site.

Later, the Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the use of the words “playboy” and “playmate” in the text portion of her Web site was a fair use of Playboy’s trademarks because they fairly described and identified the defendant.32 The Court noted that Playboy failed to introduce compelling evidence of actual consumer confusion.33 Compare N.V.E. v. Hoffmann-La Roche, CA No. 99-5858 (D.N.J. 1999) (WHW) (the District Court enjoined metatagging where the metatag misdirected searchers to a competing Web site).34

J. Other Uses of a Mark (Linking Searches on Search Engines to Banner Ads)

Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Netscape Communications Corp., 55 F. Supp. 2d 1070 (C.D. Ca. 1999) aff’d without opinion, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 30215 (9th Cir. 1999). This case involves the sale of online banner ads keyed to the specific search terms: “playboy” and “playmate.” The Court ruled that the terms “playboy” and “playmate” are generic and that Playboy has no monopoly on these words in all forms. Consequently, the Court denied Playboy’s request for a preliminary injunction against Excite, Inc. and Netscape. The Court held that the sale of banner ads which keyed “playboy” and “playmate” to third-party advertisers which operate adult entertainment sites does not constitute trademark infringement or dilution. On September 14, 2000, the District Court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Playboy Enters., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13418 (C.D. Cal. 2000).

K. Registering of Common Surnames

1. Avery Dennison Corp. v. Sumpton, 189 F.3d 868, 51 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1801 (9th Cir. 1999). This was an appeal by the defendant, an entity that maintained domain registrations for individual names. The defendant had registered many surnames, including “Avery.net” and “Dennison.net.” Avery Dennison Corporation claimed these registrations diluted the “Avery Dennison” mark. The Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court’s holding that there was dilution. The Ninth Circuit held that:

a. The Avery Dennison mark was not famous because it was not “truly prominent and renowned” so that even marks “with such powerful consumer associations and even non-competing users can impinge on their value.” Avery, 189 F.3d 868, 875. The Court noted that there were many registrations of marks and uses of the marks “Avery” and “Dennison” by others, and this factor weighs against those being famous marks.

b. The Court also said that although “an intent to arbitrage” constituted a commercial use, an intent to “capitalize on the surname status of ‘Avery’ and ‘Dennison’ did not constitute a commercial use of a mark.” Id. at 880.

2. Other domain name decisions have favored the “smaller” party. See, e.g., Hasbro, Inc. v. Clue Computing, Inc., 66 F. Supp. 2d 117, 52 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1402 (D. Mass. 1999) [holding that ownership of a well-known trademark (the mark “clue” for a board game) does not automatically entitle a party to a domain name (“clue.com” which Clue Computing registered)].35

L. Generic and Descriptive

The Federal Circuit held that the slogan “Best Beer in America” was incapable of registration as a trademark because of its highly laudatory and descriptive nature. In re Boston Beer Co. Ltd. Partnership, 198 F.3d 1370, 53 U.S.P.Q. 1056 (Fed. Cir. 1999).36 But see Etoys.com v. etoy.com, Los Angeles Superior Court, preliminary injunction issued Nov. 29, 1999.37

III. Cybersquatting

A. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act

On November 29, 1999, President Clinton signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act (H.R. 3194). This Act includes the Intellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act of 1999 (S. 1948), which incorporates, inter alia, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, 15 U.S. C. § 1125(d), attached hereto as Exhibit A. The Act amends Section 43 of the Lanham Act to add a subsection (d), and focuses on domain name registrants who acquire a domain name containing a trademark “with a bad-faith intent to profit” from the use of such mark. In particular, the amendment authorizes a private cause of action by the owner of a mark against anyone who, with a bad-faith intent to profit, registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that:

is identical or confusingly similar to a mark that is distinctive at the time of registration of the domain name, is identical or confusingly similar to or dilutive of a famous mark that is famous at the time of registration of the domain name, or is a trademark, word, or name protected by reason of section 18 U.S.C. § 706,38 or 36 U.S.C. § 220506.39

The statute, at 15 U.S.C. §1125(d)(I)(B), provides a non-exhaustive list of nine factors a court may consider in determining “bad faith.”40 These factors are suggestive of the factual circumstances the courts should consider in determining whether the alleged infringing domain name, and the acts of the holder of the allegedly infringing domain name, encroach upon the range of rights granted to a trademark holder. Thus, a court is to consider evidence of whether the domain name holder has property rights in the mark; whether the site is commercial or non-commercial in nature; whether there is evidence that the domain name harms the good will of the registered mark; whether the domain name holder (who has not used or intended to use the domain name) has offered to sell the domain name to the holder of the mark; and whether the domain name holder has a pattern of registering multiple domains which the holder knew were the marks of others.

In addition, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act:41

1. Allows parties to bring an in rem action42 against any owner of a domain name that has been registered in violation of the Act and,

2. Permits obtaining injunctive relief and damages from those who, “with bad faith intent to profit,”43 register domain name identifiers which are identical or similar to a trademark; in lieu of actual damages, the trademark holder can recover damages of at least $1,000.00, but not more than $100,000 per domain name identifier. The court can order that the defendant transfer the domain name to a successful plaintiff. See, e.g., Lozano Enter. v. La Opinion Publ’g Co., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20372, 44 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1764 (C.D. Cal. 1997).

3. Registering a domain name with “intent to profit” would now be illegal under the Anticybersquatting Act (which created a new §43(d) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1125(d)). Previously, registering a domain name without more would not constitute either “use in commerce” or “commercial use” as was previously required under the Lanham Act to establish a violation.

B. Multiple Defendants (In Rem Proceedings)

The Anticybersquatting Act, infra, allows a court to order the cancellation or forfeiture of a domain name or the transfer of a name to the owner of the trademark. It is now possible for plaintiffs to pursue domain names as a group rather than being forced to sue each of the registrants individually.

1. In Porsche Cars North America, Inc. v. porsche.com, 51 F. Supp. 2d 707, 51 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1461 (E.D. Va. 1999), the Court rejected Porsche’s in rem claim to grab control of domain names incorporating versions of the “Porsche” name. The in rem action was an effort to avoid having to individually sue hundreds of registrants who had registered those domain names. However, on June 9, 2000, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded this decision since the District Court did not consider the effect of the Anticybersquatting Act. See Porsche Cars North America, Inc. v. allporsche.com, et al., 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 12843, 55 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1158 (4th Cir. 2000).

2. Bad faith is required for a plaintiff to use the in rem provisions of the Anticybersquatting Act. See Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 2000 U.S. Dist LEXIS 11911 (E.D. Va. 2000).

C. Validity of the Anticybersquatting Act

Victims of cybersquatting are taking advantage of this new Act, which has been upheld on appeal. Sporty’s Farm LLC v. Sportsman’s Market Inc., 202 F.3d 489 (2d Cir. 2000) (the Court held that the defendant’s use of sports.com was indistinguishable from the “Sport’s” trademark, that Sporty’s Farm acted with a bad faith intent to profit because it had not made use of the “sporty’s” mark before registering it as a domain name, and it planned to use the Web site to directly compete with Sportsman).44 

IV. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)

A. Proposed Addition Of New Top Level Domain Names

ICANN is the non-profit body responsible for domain name system management, IP address allocation, and related functions. ICANN was established last year to (a) phase out the government’s involvement in the domain name system and (b) to end the monopoly held by Network Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq: NSOL), by opening up the registration of such popular domains as “.com,” “.org,” and “.net” to additional companies. Although the database for the generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) is still managed (a “registry” function) by Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), the domains may be “registered” by many different entities including www.register.com and www.aol.com. ICANN is now considering additional generic TLDs to .com, .net and .org for commercial uses. For example, ICANN is considering suggestions to add “.travel,” “.banc,” “.museum,” “.union, and “.xxx” or “.sex.”45 Various groups have suggested other gTLDs: The Free Software Foundation asked ICANN to approve “.gnu” domains dedicated to open-source projects and programming; NetNumber, an Internet telephone and communications company suggested “.tel,” and VRx Network Services may suggest the domains “.faq,” “.list,” “.prices,” and “.gallery.”46 At its July 16, 2000, meeting in Yokohama, Japan, the ICANN Board of Directors adopted a policy for the introduction of new Internet gTLDs.47 “ICANN president Ester Dyson said the group is considering adding between three and twenty new top-level domains, although she refused to refused to elaborate further.”48 After a period of public comment, these proposals will be evaluated and ICANN will select a limited number of proposals for negotiations toward agreements between ICANN and the TLD sponsors and operators. ICANN’s goal is to complete negotiations for appropriate agreements by December 31, 2000.49 In mid-August, ICANN posted the Detailed New TLD Registry Application Form, instructions for filling out the application, and a statement of criteria for the Board’s eventual decision. ICANN began accepting applications on September 5, 2000. The remainder of the schedule is as follows:

October 2, 2000 Deadline for ICANN’s receipt of completed applications (including all supporting materials and application fees) and amendments to applications.

October 5, 2000 Portions of these applications deemed appropriate for publication for purposes of public comment or otherwise will be posted on ICANN’s web site.

October 19, 2000 Close of period for public comments on proposals.

Mid-November50 2000 After approval by the Board, ICANN will announce selections for negotiations toward entry of agreements with registry sponsors and operators.

December 31, 2000 Target date for completion of negotiations.

In order to apply, applicants must not only submit an application in accordance with ICANN’s guidelines (which are available on ICANN’s Web site51) but also pay a non-refundable fee of $50,000.00. As of August 2, 2000, twenty-nine groups expressed interest in starting up new top level domains (i.e. suggesting a new gTLD and operating a registry for the suggested gTLD).52 Critics complain that the fee “is too high a barrier to entry for noncommercial groups or poor international companies to hurdle.”53 Also, there are questions about whether the selection process will be fair, i.e. those corporate and industrial applicants with connections to ICANN members will have their gTLD selected, but an individual who suggested the same gTLD and also paid a non-refundable $50,000.00 fee will not be selected; such questions about the fairness of the gTLD selection process could result in litigation against ICANN.

B. ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy

1. Background

On October 24, 1999, ICANN adopted a uniform domain name dispute resolution policy which is binding on all accredited registrars; this policy incorporates by reference the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).54 The policy and the rules provide a method to contest the propriety of existing domain name registrations. In order to be entitled to obtain transfer of a domain name from a prior registrant, a complainant must establish that:

(1) the domain name(s) is/are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant has rights; and

(2) the domain name holder has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name(s) that is/are the subject of the complaint; and

(3) the domain name(s) has/have been registered and is/are being used in bad faith.55

The Dispute Resolution policy is popular due to its relatively low cost and the speed with which parties obtain results (within 45 days).56 By the spring of this year, seventy-four percent of the decided cases favored existing trademark holders.57 However, courts are not bound by the administrative proceedings of an ICANN panel. See Weber-Stephen Prods. v. Armitage Hardware and Bldg. Supply, 2000 U.S. Dist LEXIS 6335, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1766, (N.D. Ill. 2000). This ruling is significant because of the volume of proceedings before the dispute resolution panel: as of May 9, 2000, there were 518 pending cases.58

2. Recent Decisions Under ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy59 and Court Cases

a. Trademarks

i. In one of the first cases of trademark cybersquatting, President and Fellows of Harvard College v. Rhys, D. Mass., No. 99CV12489RCL, (filed Dec. 6, 1999, Judge Reginald Lindsey), Harvard sued domain name owners, and seeks to prevent Web Productions, a company which has registered sixty-five domain names relating to Harvard and Radcliffe, from using Harvard’s trademarks.60

ii. Frequently, the trademark owner is able to obtain the rights to the domain name that contains the mark.

(a) Dell Computer Corp. won the rights to nine addresses, including dellwireless.net, dellpocketpc.net, dellpalm.com, and dellpalm.net.61

(b) Chase Manhattan Corp. announced that it was acquiring the British investment bank Robert Fleming Holdings, Ltd. The same day Chase made this announcement, Entertainment Charlotte registered seven addresses with variations on the combined names, such as chasefleming.org and chase-flemings.net. An arbitrator awarded these addresses to Chase Manhattan Corp.62

(c) Yahoo! Inc. has been successful in two cybersquatting cases. In one case, a WIPO panel ruled that an individual must give up four addresses to Yahoo: yahoofree.com, yahoofree.net, yahooemail.net, and yahoochat.net.63 In another case, several companies which together had registered thirty-six domain names had to return all those names to Yahoo. See Yahoo! Inc. and GeoCities v. Data Art Corp., et al., WIPO Case No. D2000-0587.

(d) AT&T won the domain names attmexico.com and att-latinamerica.com; the WIPO arbitrator “found that ‘the letters ATT are a fundamental feature of the complainant’s marks’ and concluded that the two domain names were registered in bad faith.”64 AT&T also won transfer of the domain name “ATT2000.com” in AT&T Corp. v. Tala Alamuddin, WIPO Case No. V2000-0249, where the arbitrator noted that the acronym “ATT” was internationally recognized.65

(e) A cybersquatter must give up the domain name www.e-ikea.com because it was confusingly similar to the trademark of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, and it was registered in bad faith.66

(f) Cybersquatters frequently register more than one variation of a domain name that contains a trademark. Nevertheless, successful trademark owners obtain the rights to all those domain name variations. In Telia AB v. Ewaldsson, WIPO Case No. D2000-0599, the panel awarded 243 domain names to complainant Telia.

(g) Offering to ransom the domain name to the trademark holder is evidence of bad faith which the arbitrators consider in awarding a domain name to the trademark holder. See Christies, Inc. v. Ola Ljungberg, WIPO Case No. DNU2000-0002, where the cybersquatter offered to sell christies.nu to Christies, Inc., the auction house, for $120,000.00.

(h) The largest crackdown on cybersquatting: Three Olympic governing bodies (the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002) filed a suit in the United States District Court of Virginia seeking a court ruling to shut down over 1,800 Web sites which are allegedly profiting from official Olympic trademarks [all the sites contain the trademark names “Olympics,” “Olympic,” “Olympiad,” their derivation in Spanish or French, or their misspelling (such as “2004Olimpics.com”)].67 The United States Olympic Committee has already won the right to two domain names in a recent arbitration proceeding. See United States Olympic Comm. (USOC) v. Tri B-U-N Eco. Project, WIPO Case No. D2000-0435 (awarding the domain names usaolympiconlinestore.com and olympiconlinestore.com to the USOC).

iii. Mixed Success

Some trademark owners are not successful. This is frequently because of an inability to show bad faith on the part of the registrant. For example, Reuters won the right to five addresses (wwwreuters.com, ruters.com, reters.com, reuers.com, and reutersnews.com) registered by Global Net 2000, Inc., which “used the Reuters mark to drive visitors to its Web site by forwarding” visitors to its own site.68 However, Reuters did not win the transfer of one address, ereuters.com. The arbitrator found that, although the domain name is confusingly similar to the complainant’s (Reuters) trademark and the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, the arbitrator noted that ereuters.com was used for non-profit discussions regarding improvements in Asian maid services and thus was not registered in bad faith.69

iv. Unsuccessful Trademark Owners

(a) Fuji Publishing, a Web developer, won the right to use the domain name Fuji.com in creating e-commerce Web sites for wineries and cigar companies. The photographic materials company Fuji Photo Film Company of Japan and its U.S. subsidiary claimed that it should own the Fuji.com domain name. They did not succeed because they did not meet the UDRP requirement that the current holder of a disputed domain name has no legitimate claim to the address since Fuji Publishing used the domain name to sell its own services, not confuse consumers or trade off Fuji Photo Film’s name.70

(b) Augusta National, Inc., the golf country club which hosts the Master’s tournament has a trademark on “Masters” and tried to obtain the name Masters.com from Bancrost & Masters, a computer services company. Not only was Augusta National unsuccessful in its attempt to obtain the domain name, but now faces a cancellation proceeding for its federally registered “Masters” trademark.71

(c) EasyJet Airline Company lost its cybersquatting claim over the name easy-jet.com because the arbitration panel found that the registrant, who sells printer cartridge refills, lacked bad faith.72

b. Celebrities and Famous Names

i. Brad Pitt has also filed suit against the owners of “bradpitt.com,” who initially tried to sell the domain name to Pitt for as much as $50,000.00,73 and the owners of “bradpitt.net,” a commercial cite and fan club outlet which sells merchandise featuring Brad Pitt.74

ii. Frequently, the celebrity (or the celebrity’s estate) wins the right to the domain name bearing his or her name. See www.rosaparks.com,75 www. Jimihendrix.com,76 and jthrotull.com and jethro-tull.com.77 The reason is that the arbitrators treat the name of a famous or widely known person as constituting an unregistered trademark or service mark sufficient for the UDRP paragraph 4(a)(i). See, e.g., Julia Fiona Roberts v. Russell Boyd, WIPO Case No. D2000-0219.

iii. Nevertheless, the celebrity is not guaranteed to win the rights to a domain name bearing his famous name.

(a) If the complainant is world famous under a name that utilizes common words, the celebrity may not win the rights to a domain name bearing his or her name. See Gordon Sumner, p/k/a Sting v. Michael Urvan, WIPO Case No. D2000-0596 (the famous musician “Sting” did not win sting.com)

(b) Singer and actress Madonna has filed a complaint to own the domain name madonna.com. The current owner of that domain name, Dan Parisi (who owns the adult Web site whitehouse.com), is arguing that “Madonna” is a common word in the English language; however a spokesperson for Madonna said that Madonna has trademarked the word “Madonna.”78

V. Miscellaneous

A. One court has addressed the question of whether a domain name constitutes property: In Network Solutions, Inc. v. Umbro Int’l, Inc., 259 Va. 759, 529 S.E.2d 80, 2000 VA Lexis 75 (2000), there was a judgment against the domain name registrant, but the creditor was unable to have the domain name seized and sold to satisfy the judgment. The Virginia Supreme Court found that the rights inherent in the domain name contract cannot be seized under Virginia’s statutory garnishment procedure because the domain name holder has no separate intellectual property right in the domain name. The only rights in a domain name are the rights under the domain name contract, which means a creditor could file a lien against a domain, but may be unable to sell it. Thus, this case limits the rights of one who holds a domain and could be construed to limit the value of a domain name.79

B. The freedom to create links has become an issue where courts have enjoined entities from linking due to contributory infringement. See Intellectual Reserve, Inc. v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Inc., 75 F. Supp. 2d 1290, 53 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1425 (C.D. Utah 1999).80

C. Cybersquatting

1. “Typosquatting” – cybersquatting by misspelling a famous name or trademark.81

a. Bargain Bid v. Ubid, et al., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3021 (E.D.N.Y. 2000) (the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, enjoined defendants (1) from using the Bargain Bid and Barginbid marks and (2) from indicating that the defendants’ services were sponsored, affiliated, or approved by Bargain Bid, where the defendants registered the domain name “barginbid.com” to allegedly divert consumers from the Bargain Bid’s Web site by using the common misspelling of “bargain.”)82

b. Nevertheless, the Bargain Bid case did not deter an alleged cybersquatter from registering www.phillipmorris.com, which is similar to Philip Morris, Inc.’s corporate name, but spelled with an additional “l.” Currently, the Web site www.phillipmorris.com is registered to the “Phillip Morris Club” and states that it is “dedicated to linking all of the guys named Phillip Morris together” and that it is not affiliated with the Philip Morris Tobacco Company.83 However, the page contains a link to an anti-tobacco site, ButtOut.net,84 and previously, www.phillipmorris.com automatically redirected visitors to ButtOut.net. Philip Morris, Inc. is not adopting a wait-and-see attitude; in mid-June, 2000, Philip Morris filed a trademark lawsuit in the U. S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.85

c. Likewise, when a domain name “wholesaler” registered many domain names consisting of the “misspelling of famous marks or personalities in the hope of diverting Internet traffic to his sites,” WIPO arbitrators ruled that he must give up his registered misspellings of the Wall Street Journal – www.wallstreetjounal.com and www.wallstreetjournel.com – to the Wall Street Journal.86

d. See also Microsoft Corp. v. Microsof.com aka Tarek Ahment, WIPO Case No. D2000-0548 (awarding microsof.com to Microsoft Corporation).

e. The typosquatting problem has caused concern for the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the agency that oversees the operation of U.S. financial institutions.87 This agency issued an alert to banks, advising that the banks be careful in selecting domain names and suggesting that banks may want to consider purchasing similarly spelled domain names to prevent customer confusion and to preclude bank customers from mistakenly transmitting confidential information to those other similar Web sites.

D. State Legislation

Hollywood is a land of famous people, so it is no surprise that California has enacted its own Anticybersquatting law. This legislation prohibits the registration, in bad faith,88 of domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to the real names of other people, living or deceased. The rationale behind this law is that it will provide a “higher level of protection against Internet fraud and will make it easier for consumers to navigate the Internet by reducing the number of fraudulently registered names.” In addition, the California law closes a gap in recently enacted federal law by including protections for names that are not trademarked and for the names of promising newcomers who may not meet federal “sufficiently famous” standards but whose names might be pirated. It also offers protection for the heirs of celebrities. . . . The bill passed without a dissenting vote in the Legislature.89

Several prominent trade organizations supported this bill: SAG (Screen Actors Guild), the Motion Picture Producers Association of America, and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).90 However, the California law may be challenged as an unlawful expansion of federal trademark law.91

E. Remedies

1. The most common remedy a successful complainant obtains through the arbitration process is transfer of the domain name. See. e.g., Heel Quik!, Inc. v. Goldman, NAF FA92527, available at http://www.arb-forum.org/sitemap/index.html

2. In unusual cases where there is “malicious, fraudulent, deliberate, or willful” trademark infringement under Section 35(a) of the Lanham Act, litigants have opted to take a cybersquatter to court and obtain attorney fees. In E-Stamp Corp. v. Lahoti, Case No. 00-9287 (C.D. Cal. 2000), the Court noted that the cybersquatter defendant, who had registered estamps.com and slight variations thereof, attacked Plaintiff’s mark when Plaintiff’s company was particularly vulnerable and awarded the Plaintiff $305,615.20 in attorney fees.92

VI. Conclusion

Generally, trademark owners obtain domain names containing or confusingly similar to their marks in the arbitration proceedings. Since WIPO began arbitrating Internet domain cases last year, it has received more than one thousand such cases and has completed over half of them.93

In conclusion, the Anticybersquatting Act and ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Proceeding have tremendously expanded the rights of common law trademarks and registered trademarks to preclude others from usurping those rights by registering domain names with the mark or confusingly similar to the mark.  

Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals

ICANN expects to receive many applications to sponsor or operate new top-level domains (TLDs). In this year’s application program, it is likely that only a few of these will be selected by the ICANN Board for negotiations toward registry sponsor and operator agreements. To the extent possible, as this process continues ICANN will provide additional guidance on the likely number of TLDs to be included.

The ICANN staff is responsible for gathering information about submitted applications, evaluating the applications and associated information, and making recommendations to the Board based on the applications, associated information, and evaluations. In its evaluations, the ICANN staff currently intends to consider at least the factors described below. Applicants are invited to be creative and to explain the value of their proposals in the context of these and any other relevant factors.

1. The need to maintain the Internet’s stability.

ICANN’s first priority is to preserve the stability of the Internet, including the domain-name system (DNS). Proposals should demonstrate specific and well-thought-out plans, backed by ample, firmly committed resources, to operate in a manner that preserves the Internet’s continuing stability. The introduction of the proposed TLD should not disrupt current operations, nor should it create alternate root systems, which threaten the existence of a globally unique public name space. Security and reliability of the DNS are important aspects of stability, and proposals should set forth comprehensive strategies to assure both.

ICANN will undertake a wide-ranging assessment of a proposal’s treatment of stability issues. Among the significant aspects of stability ICANN will review are:

a. The prospects for the continued and unimpaired operation of the TLD in the manner proposed by the registry operator or sponsor throughout the period for which the delegation is agreed;

b. Provisions to minimize unscheduled outages of registry or registration systems due to technical failures or malicious activity of others;

c. Provisions to ensure consistent compliance with technical requirements in operation of the TLD;

d. Effects of the new TLD on the operation and performance of the DNS in general and the root-server system in particular;

e. Measures to promote rapid correction of any technical difficulties that occur (whether or not due to the TLD’s operation), such as availability of accurate, consistent, and helpful Whois information;

f. The protection of domain-name holders from the effects of registry or registration-system failure, such as procedures for rapid restoration of services from escrowed data in the event of a system outage or failure; and

g. Provisions for orderly and reliable assignment of domain names during the initial period of the TLD’s operation.

2. The extent to which selection of the proposal would lead to an effective “proof of concept” concerning the introduction of top-level domains in the future.

Recent experience in the introduction of new TLDs is limited in some respects. The current program of establishing new TLDs is intended to allow the Internet community to evaluate possible additions and enhancements to the DNS and possible methods of implementing them. Stated differently, the current program is intended to serve as a “proof of concept” for ways in which the DNS might evolve in the longer term.

Proposals should be chosen so as to promote effective evaluation of:

the feasibility and utility of different types of new TLDs,

the effectiveness of different procedures for launching new TLDs,

different policies under which the TLDs can be administered in the longer term,

different operational models for the registry and registrar functions,

different business and economic models under which TLDs can be operated;

the market demand for different types of TLDs and DNS services; and

different institutional structures for the formulation of registration and operation policies within the TLD.

This factor will be best served by applications that clearly articulate what concept or proposition the proposal would test, how the results of that test should be evaluated, and how the results of the evaluation would assist in the long-range management of the DNS.

3. The enhancement of competition for registration services.

As noted in the White Paper, market mechanisms that support competition and consumer choice should, where possible, drive the management of the DNS. One of ICANN’s core principles is the encouragement of competition at both the registry and registrar levels. Though the market will be the ultimate arbiter of competitive merit, the limited number of new TLDs to be introduced at this time makes it appropriate to make a preliminary evaluation of competitive merit for the “proof of concept.”

A proposal’s contributions to enhancement of competition can take various forms, depending on the specifics of the proposal. Depending on the characteristics of the TLD proposed, the nature and degree of competition involved may vary. Proposals will be evaluated to determine whether they are responsive to the general goal of enhancing competition for registration services.

Some examples of competitive issues that may be considered in evaluating proposals are:

a. What prospects do the proposed TLD and registry have for effectively competing with other TLDs and registries (either pre-existing or introduced at the same time)? Are the proposed pricing and service levels likely to be competitive with other TLDs and operators having significant market shares? If effective marketing is necessary to make the TLD competitive, does the proposal adequately provide for that marketing? If the proposal is for an unrestricted TLD, are any features proposed to maximize the prospect that the TLD will be attractive to consumers as an alternative to .com?

b. Is the proposal particularly attractive to a significant sub-market in which it can compete effectively? Are distinctive services being proposed that will meet the needs of those not being served adequately by existing services?

c. Is there any significant competitive concern that the proposed TLD is likely to lead to lock-in of domain-name holders, so that inter-TLD competition is constrained? To the extent there is a concern about constrained competition, what measures are proposed or available to ensure competitive operation of the TLD (periodic rebidding of registry, etc.)?

d. What effect would the proposal have on registrar-level competition? Does the proposal restrict the ability of accredited registrars to offer registration services within the TLD on competitive terms? What mechanism is proposed for selecting registrars?

e. If accredited registrars are not permitted to offer registration services within the TLD on a competitive basis, are there other, effective mechanisms for providing competitive choices to domain-name holders seeking to register within the TLD?

f. Would the proposal advance competitive frontiers by introducing an innovative use of the DNS?

g. Would restrictions proposed for a restricted TLD impair (either in principle or in implementation) competition among potential registrants?

4. The enhancement of the utility of the DNS.

One motivation often cited for introducing new TLDs is that doing so might increase the utility of the DNS. Under this view, the appropriateness of adding new TLDs should be evaluated based on whether addition of the new TLDs: would sensibly add to the existing DNS hierarchy and would not create or add to confusion of Internet users in locating the Internet resources they seek.

At least the following considerations will be considered in this regard:

a. If the TLD is intended for a particular use or purpose, does the TLD label suggest that use? Is this true for a large portion of Internet users globally (i.e. in different languages)?

 b. Is the proposed TLD semantically “far” from existing TLDs, so that confusion is avoided? (For example, TLD labels suggesting similar meanings might be more easily confused.) Is it phonetically distinct from existing TLDs? Meanings and pronunciations in different languages may be relevant to these inquiries.

c. Does the proposed TLD avoid names reserved by RFCs (or documents that are nearly RFCs), notably “.local” (from the HTTP State Management draft) and those names listed in RFC 2606.

d. In the case of a restricted TLD, is the restriction one that will assist users in remembering or locating domain names within the TLD? (E.g., users might conclude that “ford.car” is associated with the automobile company, not the modeling agency.)

5. The extent to which the proposal would meet previously unmet types of needs.

The DNS should meet a diversity of needs. Close examination will be given to whether submitted proposals exhibit a well-conceived plan, backed by sufficient resources, to meet presently unmet needs of the Internet community.

6. The extent to which the proposal would enhance the diversity of the DNS and of registration services generally.

One goal of introducing new TLDs should be to enhance the diversity of the DNS and the manner in which registration services are provided. In examining submitted proposals, consideration will be given to the diversity the proposal would add to the DNS. Among the diversity of proposals sought, ICANN hopes to receive proposals for fully open top level domains, restricted and chartered domains with limited scope, noncommercial domains, and personal domains. Diversity in business models and of geographic locations are also advantageous. (Note that this criterion must be judged based on the whole group of selected proposals, rather than any single proposal.)

7. The evaluation of delegation of policy-formulation functions for special-purpose TLDs to appropriate organizations.

As noted in the ICANN-staff-prepared document entitled “ICANN Yokohama Meeting Topic: Introduction of New Top-Level Domains,” the DNS is a hierarchical system that facilitates delegation of policy-formulation authority for particular TLDs. In the context of unsponsored TLDs, this can appropriately be accomplished for many operational matters by giving the registry operator flexibility in the registry contract. For restricted TLDs, some have suggested a “sponsorship” model, in which policy-formulation responsibility for the TLD would be delegated to a sponsoring organization that allows participation of the affected segments of the relevant communities. Proposals will be analyzed to determine whether they offer the opportunity for meaningful, real-world evaluation of various structures for appropriate delegation of policy-formulation responsibilities, as well as evaluation of various allocations of policy-formulation responsibilities between ICANN and sponsoring organizations.

8. Appropriate protections of rights of others in connection with the operation of the TLD.

In introducing new TLDs, care should be taken to ensure that the rights of third parties are appropriately protected. Examples of matters to be examined in this regard include:

a. Does the proposal have a well-thought-out plan for allocation of names during the start-up phase of the TLD in a way that protects the legitimate interests of significant stakeholders, including existing domain-name holders, businesses with legally protected names, and others with which conflict is likely?

b. Does the proposal provide for a reasonably accessible and efficient mechanism for resolving domain-name disputes?

c. Has the proponent considered intellectual property interests or otherwise designed protections for third-party interests?

d. Does the proposal make adequate provision for Whois service that strikes an appropriate balance between providing information to the public regarding domain-name registrations in a convenient manner and offering mechanisms to preserve personal privacy?

e. Does the proposal incorporate policies that are likely to discourage abusive registration practices?

9. The completeness of the proposals submitted and the extent to which they demonstrate realistic business, financial, technical, and operational plans and sound analysis of market needs.

The ICANN staff intends to place significant emphasis on the completeness of the proposals and the extent to which they demonstrate that the applicant has a thorough understanding of what is involved, has carefully thought through all relevant issues, has realistically assessed the business, financial, technical, operational, and marketing requirements for implementing the proposal, has procured firm commitments for all necessary resources, and has formulated sound business and technical plans for executing the proposal. Applicants are strongly encouraged to retain well-qualified professional assistance (e.g., technical, engineering, financial, legal, marketing, and management professionals, as appropriate) in formulating their proposals. Proposals that are presented in a clear, substantive, detailed, and specific manner will be preferred.

Comments concerning the layout, construction and functionality of this site should be sent to webmaster@icann.org.

(c) 2000 The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

All rights reserved.

 TLD Application Process FAQs

We add/revise material on this page frequently. If you have visited here before, please reload/refresh this page. (Please note that in some cases the questions in the following FAQs have been edited to generalize them or otherwise to provide information of greater general interest.)

FAQ #1: What is the process for obtaining information about how to apply to sponsor or operate a new TLD?

ICANN will make various information for applicants available on its web site. The information can be accessed through the web page at <http://www.icann.org/tlds/tld-application-process.htm>. This information will include various explanatory materials as well as application forms.

If you have a question before 3 October 2000 about the TLD application process that, after carefully reviewing the posted materials, you feel has not yet been answered, you may submit that question by e-mail to tld-applications@icann.org. To help provide all applicants with equitable access to information about the process as they prepare their applications, it is ICANN’s practice to respond to questions about applications during the application period only when they are submitted in writing. Please do not attempt to get additional information by calling or visiting our offices.

We will periodically review the questions submitted and, if a response is appropriate, we will post the question (or an edited version of it, if we feel that would be more informative) along with our responses on this web page. Please watch this web page to see any response to your question. We will not be replying separately to e-mail inquiries.

We may also create and publish other FAQs on this page as we become aware of points that should be clarified.

Please note that any question that you submit to tld-applications@icann.org is subject to being published verbatim on this web page. If you do not wish to publish an idea you have to the world, you should not include it in your question.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Those seeking information about the possibility of registering domain names within an existing or to-be-created TLD should direct their questions to icann@icann.org. Questions of this character should not be sent to the tld-applications mailbox.

FAQ #2: My TLD concept is complicated, and I feel I need to meet with ICANN to explain it. How do I do that?

After the close of the application period on 2 October 2000, ICANN staff will be evaluating all of the applications received. This process will involve not only reviewing what has been submitted, but also consulting with technical, financial, business, and legal experts and gathering additional information that may be pertinent to the application.

As needed, after the application period is concluded the ICANN staff may gather additional information by sending applicants e-mails asking for the information, by conducting telephone or in-person interviews with applicants, by attending (possibly with ICANN-retained experts) presentations by applicants or their experts, or by other means. These inquiries will be initiated by the ICANN staff; if you feel a presentation to ICANN is necessary to properly present your proposal you should suggest that in your written application.

FAQ #3:  (A) I represent a fairly large ISP & newly forming open source registrars’ group that is also interested in possibly creating a new TLD. How do I know what TLD is being spoken for? The US$ 50,000 application fee is not a problem, but I don’t want to waste it on a TLD that already has been dealt with or is being processed.

(B) Recently I’m drawing an Chinese DNS standard and require information about DNS, especially TLDs. As I know, ICANN issued new TLDs recently during the meeting in Yokohama, and I want to know what are these new TLDs.

In Yokohama, the ICANN Board adopted a policy that will allow the introduction of new TLDs, which will probably become operational next year. However, no particular TLDs were approved in Yokohama. The TLDs that are presently in effect are described in the “Present Structure of the Domain-Name System” section of the “Introduction of New Top-Level Domains” document published in advance of the Yokohama meeting.

FAQ #4: Will the date I submit my application matter if multiple candidates apply for the same name(s)? Do applicants who submit their applications earlier get priority with everything else equal?

You must submit your complete application to ICANN by the 2 October 2000 deadline. If you do so, the date on which you submit your application will not affect the selection process. In other words, the date you apply makes no difference (as long as you get your application in on time).

FAQ #5: Is it correct to assume that new TLDs to be considered by ICANN may utilize non-ASCII characters in both the name of the TLD and in name components (“labels”) hierarchically below it?

No. Domain names are used as identifiers in a variety of protocols and applications that conform to them. These protocols expect the identifiers they use to conform to a very narrow definition, which has been established in the Internet for over 25 years. Use of names that do not conform to the narrowest of the rules and conventions is known to cause operability and interoperability problems. The format is described in several places, most importantly section 3 of RFC 1034 and section 2.1 of RFC 1123 (both full Internet Standards).

Specifically, applications expect domain names that are composed only of the letters A to Z (interpreted in a case-independent fashion), digits, hyphens, and the period, all coded according to the rules of the “ASCII” character set (the “basic version” character coding specified in ISO 646). The period is used only to separate name components (called “labels” in the DNS). Labels may not start or end with a hyphen or be more than 63 characters in length; top-level domain names (i.e. the rightmost label in a name) may not start with a digit.

At this time, ICANN will only establish top-level domains having names that comply with the above format. Registries will be expected similarly to follow that format for the names they register.

The Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is charged with specifying the requirements for internationalized access to domain names and a standards track protocol and encodings, based on those requirements, which will adequately respond to applications restrictions. When IDN’s work is complete, the above name-formation requirements might be modified.

See FAQ #9 and FAQ #36 for related information.

FAQ #6: Will applications submitted after 2 October 2000 (around December or early next year) be considered?

The current activity (in calling for proposals to sponsor or operate new TLDs) is part of a “proof of concept” program in which various ideas for new TLDs will be tested in actual practice. The plan is to introduce a limited number of new TLDs in a measured and responsible manner and then to evaluate how the introduction fared.

To be included in this proof-of-concept program, applications must be received by 2 October 2000. Based on evaluation of how things proceed, next steps will be decided, and later applications might then be accepted.

FAQ #7: How can I arrange for ICANN to send me a hard copy of the application form?

You can’t. Applications will consist primarily of comprehensive technical, business, and policy proposals prepared by or for the applicant. There will also be various forms to be submitted, which are scheduled to be available on the ICANN web site on 15 August 2000. Once these are available, you should print them, fill them out, and submit them as part of your overall application.

FAQ #8: In some jurisdictions, it is a long process to authorize a not-for-profit application for which the temporary applicant is an ordinary corporation with the intent to convert it to a not-for-profit corp? Such an authorization may be conditional upon the conversion prior to fully implementing the registry.

The appropriate course in this situation depends on whether the to-be-formed not-for-profit corporation is proposed to be a sponsoring organization (the usual case), the registry operator, or both.

A proposed sponsoring organization need not actually be formed at the time that the application is made. The application for a sponsored TLD can be made by those proposing to form the sponsoring organization. Of course, formation must be complete before the organization enters a TLD sponsorship agreement with ICANN. Ordinarily, ICANN’s decision to delegate to a sponsoring organization will be made based partly on the characteristics of the proposed organization, and that organization should be the one that will serve as the sponsoring organization throughout the period of the requested delegation.

In contrast, the registry operator’s proposal should be submitted by an existing organization. As with sponsoring organizations, ICANN’s decision to delegate to a registry operator will be made based partly on the characteristics of the operator. The proposed operator should be the one that is proposed for the entire period of the requested delegation.

See FAQ #12 for related information.

FAQ #9: If a restricted TLD were to be the subject of an application, would ICANN accept a TLD name in ASCII letters which are conversions from another symbolic system to Roman letters?

A TLD name must conform to format requirements summarized in FAQ #5. Provided it does, it can be a transliteration having meaning in another symbolic system. For example, .san (transliterated from Japanese) would acceptable as the name of a TLD for personal-use domain names.

FAQ #10: Will there at any time be the opportunity to secure an extended window to lodge an application or the possibility of securing some sort of option over the right to lodge an application? The very short time frame within which to lodge applications is short.

The current application process is part of a “proof of concept” program that is intended to involve introduction of only a limited number of new TLDs. In recognition of the limited recent experience in introducing new TLDs, the program is meant to allow the Internet community to evaluate possible additions and enhancements to the DNS and possible methods of implementing them. After these initial introductions, decisions can be made about evolution of the DNS (including new TLDs) based on the experience gained. While it would not be appropriate to prejudge those decisions, they may involve seeking additional applications in the future.

FAQ #11: One might think that all applicants must be not-for-profit organizations. Is this understanding correct?

No. Depending on the type of TLD being proposed (sponsored or unsponsored), the applicant will be either a sponsoring organization or a registry operator. For discussions of the role of each, see the Sponsored and Unsponsored TLDs section of the New TLD Application Process Overview document and criteria 7 in the Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals document. Each organization should have characteristics (not-for-profit, for-profit, etc.) appropriate to its role within the overall context of the proposal.

FAQ #12: Can multiple organizations make an application to sponsor a TLD?

Yes, in the situation where the sponsoring organization is not yet formed. See, for example, item A1 on the Sponsored TLD Application Transmittal Form and Instruction I9.2. In all other situations, there should be only a single applicant. For related information, see FAQ #8.

FAQ #13: I have the question about paying the US$50,000 fee. If the application is not granted, is ICANN giving the US$50,000 back?

No. The fee is only an application fee, in exchange for which ICANN will review your application. ICANN will keep your fee even if it does not grant your application. There is only one situation in which your application fee might be returned. If you claim your application contains confidential information and ICANN disagrees, ICANN will delete the information before reviewing your application on the merits. In this situation, you will be offered the opportunity to withdraw the application and obtain a refund of the US$50,000 application fee. See section I of the Statement of Requested Confidential Treatment of Materials Submitted for details.

FAQ #14: If the application is granted by ICANN, is ICANN keeping the fee?

Yes. Applications will be granted only after review and evaluation by ICANN. The fee is designed to defray ICANN’s costs associated with processing and evaluating the applications, and follow-up.

Please note that ICANN recovers its costs of operation from domain-name and IP-address registries and registrars. Those preparing Registry Operator Proposals should factor their share (if the application is accepted) of ICANN’s cost-recovery needs into their business model.

FAQ #15: Why is the application fee so high? Aren’t you going to prevent non-profit TLD registry proposals by requiring such a steep application fee?

As a small non-profit organization, ICANN must conduct its activities so they are essentially self-funding, on the principle of cost-recovery. For example, the accreditation process for .com, .net, and .org registrars is funded through application and accreditation fees paid by those registrars. Likewise, the new-TLD-application process must be self-funding. This process will include very intensive review and analysis of applications on many levels (including technical, financial, legal, etc.). The application fee was set at a level intended to cover all of ICANN’s costs related to the process. It would not be justifiable to require existing registries and registrars to subsidize the process.

In establishing the fee, ICANN’s Board was concerned that the application fee might discourage some applications for special-purpose restricted TLDs. However, a multi-tiered fee structure would mean that some applicants would subsidize the application-review costs of others. This would be particularly unfair because of difficulties in distinguishing between for-profit and non-profit proposals in the global context. Accordingly, a single, cost-recovery-based application fee has been adopted for this year’s new-TLD-application process.

FAQ #16: ICANN states clearly its intention to create competition among gTLD registries as it did with registrars. Will ICANN grant an application for a new registry for an existing gTLD like .com, .net, or .org?

No. The current program involves the evaluation of applications to sponsor or operate “new TLDs,” not existing ones. As stated in the New TLD Application Process Overview document, “The adopted policy calls for submission of proposals to sponsor or operate new TLDs by interested persons and organizations.” There is no intent to upset arrangements for existing TLDs through this program.

FAQ #17: My group is dissatisfied with the operation of the two-letter ccTLD that has been assigned to our country. We would like to apply to operate a registry for that ccTLD. Should we submit an application under the New TLD program?

No. The New TLD Application Process involves establishing new TLDs, not changing the delegation of existing ones. Applications in the New TLD program should not seek TLD strings that match alpha-2 codes on the ISO 3166-1 list. See FAQ #21 and FAQ #24 for related information.

FAQ #18: If we go through all the effort to apply for a top level domain, who owns it? What could potentially happen to change ownership?

Top-level domains are established for the benefit of the Internet community. Their operation is delegated to particular organizations based on a showing that doing so is in the best interests of the Internet community. An operator does not “own” a top-level domain. As noted in RFC 1591 (written by Jon Postel in 1994 and entitled “Domain Name System Structure and Delegation”): “Concerns about ‘rights’ and ‘ownership’ of domains are inappropriate. It is appropriate to be concerned about ‘responsibilities’ and ‘service’ to the community.”

It is anticipated that TLD registry agreements will provide that, if a registry operator fails to meet its service obligations, the agreement may be terminated. In their proposals, sponsoring organizations and registry operators should state the term they are suggesting and explain why they believe that term would best serve the interest of the Internet community. See, for example, item D13.2.10 of the Registry Operator’s Proposal.

FAQ #19: Is the non-refundable US$ 50,000 application fee per TLD or per idea? In other words, if I apply for multiple TLD strings is that one or many applications?

It is US $50,000 per application. Section VIII of the New TLD Application Instructions discusses the circumstances in which a single application can propose multiple TLD strings.

FAQ #20: I am planning to submit an application to ICANN for a new TLD. I would like to submit my application in writing. What address should I send my application to?

This information is provided in item I22 of the New TLD Application Instructions. Persons considering submitting an application are urged to carefully review that document as well as the instructions stated in the applications. Failure to follow all of the instructions can lead to denial of your application.

FAQ #21: Will an application which accidentally proposes a TLD that is an alpha-3 code on the ISO-3166-1 list fail?

As stated in FAQ #17, applications in the New TLD program should not seek TLD strings that match alpha-2 codes on the ISO 3166-1 list. There is no similar, automatic disqualification on alpha-3 codes on the ISO 3166-1 list.

See FAQ #24 for a follow-up question.

FAQ #22: What is the procedure in the event of duplicate submission of a domain name by different parties? Which party would get preference? Would the fee be non-refundable for the party that is not selected?

Applications to sponsor or operate a TLD will be evaluated according to the Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, under which all aspects of the proposal (operational, financial, technical, etc.) will be considered. The particular TLD string requested is only one of many factors in the evaluation. Clearly, the same TLD cannot be established for both proposals; differences between the applications would be considered according to the criteria. The fee paid by a non-selected applicant would not be refundable.

FAQ #23: Will two (or more) parties that apply for a TLD in related fields or that propose identical plans be asked to negotiate to present a joint proposal?

Although it is possible that negotiations toward a joint proposal would be urged depending on the circumstances, applicants should not assume that ICANN will request or require such negotiations. Applicants should consider discussing their proposals with other interested members of the community before submitting them.

FAQ #24: FAQ #21 states that there is no “automatic disqualification” of applications proposing TLD labels that are alpha-3 codes on ISO 3166-1 list. Is this the correct even if a ccTLD has been established for the corresponding alpha-2 code on the ISO 3166-1 list?

Yes, it is correct that there is no automatic disqualification. Please take note, however, of consideration 4(b) in the Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, which states:

b. Is the proposed TLD semantically “far” from existing TLDs, so that confusion is avoided? (For example, TLD labels suggesting similar meanings might be more easily confused.) Is it phonetically distinct from existing TLDs?

Meanings and pronunciations in different languages may be relevant to these inquiries. In this context, “existing TLDs” includes ccTLDs that have been established.

FAQ #25: We are an established not-for-profit institute that wishes to sponsor a chartered TLD. However, we feel that the eventual formation of an international sponsoring organization would be best for this chartered TLD. We would therefore like to propose our institute as the sponsoring organization pro tem, with a well-defined schedule for the establishment of the international sponsoring organization (as negotiated with ICANN). Would such a proposal be acceptable to ICANN?

Assuming that a proposal qualifies in other respects, the fact that the proposed sponsoring organization has not yet been formed should not disqualify the proposal. As noted in section 1(c)(i) of the New TLD Application Process Overview, “Where the proposed sponsoring organization has not yet been formed, the submission may be made by the organizers of that organization.” Thus, it would be appropriate to have a proposal under which your not-for-profit institute would propose to establish the international sponsoring organization. If you wish your proposal to be evaluated based on the appropriateness of the to-be-formed international organization (rather than the institute) as sponsor, we recommend that your proposal include plans to form the organization before completion of any contract negotiations with ICANN. The proposed organization could be affiliated initially with your institute, with a spin-off scheduled for a later time.

In submitting your application, you should check the box in item A1 of the Sponsored TLD Application Transmittal Form next to “Organization(s) or person(s) proposing to form the sponsoring organization (check this item only if the sponsoring organization has not yet been formed).” Section I of the Sponsoring Organization’s Proposal should be completed to give the information for the sponsoring organization that is proposed (i.e. the one to be formed).

FAQ #26: Will existing ICANN-accredited registrars for .com, .net, and .org be able to act as registrars in the new TLDs?

The type of channels used for registrations in a TLD is only one of many factors that will be considered in determining whether to select a proposal for negotiations toward possible establishment of a TLD. For a discussion of some relevant factors that may pertain to the considerations raised by your question, see Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, and particularly “the enhancement of competition for registration services” (factor 3).

FAQ #27: Can the floppy diskette requirement be expanded to allow softcopy submission on CD?

Yes, it can. Thanks for the great suggestion! We have already changed the documents to make this change.

FAQ #28: Can you provide any estimate on the timing for the “proof of concept” phase for new TLDs, and when the next opportunity to propose TLDs after this initial phase will be?

There is not yet any date that has been scheduled for a “next round,” and at present we have no predictions as to the schedule. In the current round of applications, applicants are requested to describe the value of their proposals as proofs of concept. Item E30 of the Description of TLD Policies requests suggestions for how the results of the introduction being proposed should be evaluated. Once a decision is made on the evaluation procedure to be used for TLDs introduced in the current round, the timing of future steps should become clearer.

FAQ #29: We would like to provide an Executive Summary of our TLD proposal (perhaps 1 to 3 pages in length) that describes the motivation and overall goals of the TLD. Where should such a summary be placed in the application? Perhaps as a cover letter?

We suggest that you attach it to your Description of TLD Policies. Before item E1 on your description, you should type in a statement such as “An Executive Summary of this proposal is attached.”

Materials that you wish ICANN to consider in support of your application should be included in the body of your application materials (i.e. your transmittal form, the Sponsoring Organization’s Proposal, the Registry Operator’s Proposal, the Description of TLD Policies, the fitness disclosures, or the Statement of Requested Confidential Treatment) or as a referenced attachment, not in an unreferenced, separate cover letter.

FAQ #30: Item (c) under factor 8 of the Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals states that when evaluating proposals ICANN will examine: “c. Has the proponent considered intellectual property interests or otherwise designed protections for third-party interests?” What types of intellectual-property protections should be included?

Applicants should propose measures they believe are appropriate to protect intellectual property and other third-party interests. The types of protections that are appropriate will depend, to some extent, on the nature of the TLD and other circumstances. Applicants should anticipate that one of the topics of public comments on their proposals will be the appropriateness of the protections they propose. In preparing their proposals, applicants may wish to consult the materials prepared by the ICANN DNSO Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) and posted on the IPC website. These are the views of the IPC only.

FAQ #31: What TLDs are already established?

Presently, there are seven traditional “generic” TLDs (.com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, and .org), nearly 250 two-character “country-code” TLDs, and one infrastructure TLD (.arpa). For a more detailed description of the present TLDs, see the detailed topic paper on TLDs prepared in advance of the ICANN Yokohama meeting.

FAQ #32: I’m investigating the possibility of two companies (parent companies) with complimentary capabilities forming a jointly held company (joint venture) to operate a new non-sponsored TLD registry. The joint venture would not have any operational experience and history. Am I correct in assuming that the Registry Operator’s Proposal should describe the data and history for the two parent companies? Also, will ICANN consider the application if the joint venture is not yet established when the application is sent?

A Registry Operator’s Proposal must be submitted by a proposed registry operator that is in existence (i.e. has already been formed) at the time the proposal is signed and submitted. Note that the proposed registry operator should be an organization, such as a corporation, having the ability to enter legally binding contracts.

The Registry Operator’s Proposal should describe the capabilities of the entity proposed actually to serve as registry operator. In the circumstances you describe, that could be done by describing the data and history of the parent companies and by providing documentation that the parent companies are firmly committed to transferring their relevant operational units to the newly formed entity.

FAQ #33: How do I pay the application fee?

When they were first posted, the instructions required that the non-refundable application fee be paid by check. That is still the payment method we prefer that you use. However, for the convenience of those that may have difficulty in obtaining a check drawn on a United States bank, we have decided to permit payment by wire transfer. In either case, because your application will only be considered once we are satisfied you have fully paid the application fee, it is vital that you follow the payment instructions exactly:

If you choose to pay by check, with your application you must send a check, drawn on a United States bank and payable to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in the amount of 50,000 United States dollars. If you choose to pay by wire transfer, you must arrange for the wire transfer to be sent to ICANN at the following account:

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

Account number 09141-04900

Routing indicator 121000358

Bank of America Branch 0914

4754 Admiralty Way

Marina del Rey, CA 90292 USA

Telephone +1/310/247-2080

We must receive wire transfers at least five business days before we receive your application and you must include a wire transfer receipt or other document identifying the wire transfer with your application.

FAQ #34: Where can I obtain a list of the parties that previously submitted a letter of interest and brief proposal to operate/sponsor a new gTLD?

For a list of expressions of interest received in the period leading up to the ICANN meeting in Yokohama, click here.

FAQ #35: Can I propose to act as both the registry operator also a registrar?

Applicants should describe the marketing channels they are proposing. See item D13.2.4 of the Registry Operator’s Proposal. A proposal to act as both registry operator and registrar is not forbidden, though that feature may affect how your proposal is evaluated. In formulating recommendations for the ICANN Board, the ICANN staff currently intends to consider at least the factors stated in the Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals, including factor 3: “The enhancement of competition for registration services.”

FAQ #36: In your response to FAQ #5, regarding the use of non-ASCII characters in a TLD string, you stated, “top-level domain names… may not start with a digit.” Having conducted research into this specific area, we have proven (just by the adoption of simple policies that can be applied at the registry level) that it is possible to operate a TLD with a digit as the first character while maintaining the stable operation of the DNS, and we believe that a proposal of this sort “might increase the utility of the DNS.” Can the no-beginning-digit statement of FAQ #5 be relaxed?

Not at this time. It is important to Internet stability that DNS names conform to the relatively narrow format rules and conventions stated in the RFCs because, among other things, application developers have relied on those format rules and conventions in designing, implementing, and testing software that handles DNS names. Although the statements in RFC 1034 and section 2.1 of RFC 1123 (cited in the response to FAQ #5) might, standing alone, be subject to differing interpretations, subsequent RFCs have interpreted those RFCs to prohibit TLD labels starting with digits. See RFC 2396, pages 13-14 (August 1998); RFC 1738, page 6 (December 1994). At least one of these RFCs has been available to software developers for over five years.

If the no-first-digit requirement for TLD labels is to be relaxed, it should be done through the IETF, which developed the documents articulating the requirement.

Comments concerning the layout, construction and functionality of this site should be sent to webmaster@icann.org.

(c) 2000 The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

All rights reserved.

________________________

1 The term “trademarks” refers to trademarks and service marks.

2 Disney’s Settlement Ends Suit Asserting Trademark Violation, Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, May 26, 2000. Disney agreed to pay $21.5 million to settle this lawsuit.

3 Disney’s Settlement Ends Suit Asserting Trademark Violation, Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, May 26, 2000. Disney agreed to pay $21.5 million to settle this lawsuit. /

4 See Steven Bonisteel, Mattel Whips “Barbie” Porn-Site Operator In Court, Newsbytes, July 19, 2000.

5 Compare I.P. Lund Trading A.P.S. v. Kohler Co., 163 F.3d 27, 49 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1225 (1st Cir. 1998) (specifically rejecting the “lessening of demand for the product” test applied by the Fourth Circuit in the Ringling Brothers case).

6 Note that the Hatfield case, which held that there was no liability, occurred prior to the enactment of the Anticybersquatting Act.

7 WIPO is an approved domain name dispute arbitration organization. See also Reuters, WIPO Launches “Squat Fight,” Wired News, July 10, 2000; Adam Creed, Australian Gov’t Asks WIPO To Rid World of Cybersquatters, Newsbytes, June 22, 2000.

8 See Excelentisimo Ayuntamiento de Barcelona v. Barceloa.com Inc., WIPO Case No. D2000-0505.

9 Louise Ferguson, Geographic Domains on Shaky Ground, The Industry Standard, Aug. 11, 2000.

10 Id.

11 WIPO Case No. D2000-0617.

12 Id. Another interesting aspect of this case is that the respondent did not file a response to the complaint. Nevertheless, the WIPO arbitrator viewed the Web site at issue and found bad faith lacking, as well as the Web site owner’s potential for legitimate interest.

13 Copyright Not Infringed by Hyperlink to Interior Pages, The Internet Newsletter, Mar. 2000.

14 Brenda Sandburg, Copyright Not Violated by Hypertext Link, The Recorder, Mar. 31, 2000.

15 Oscar S. Cisneros, Legal Tips for Your “Sucks” Site, Wired News, Aug. 14, 2000.

16 Id.

17 Criag Bicknell, Idealab F*cks With F*ckedCompany, Wired News, Sept. 27, 2000.

18 See www.comupix.com/ballysucks/index.htm.

19 Steven Bonisteel, Wal-Mark Sucks Names Away From Domain Claim Jumper, Newsbytes, Aug 1, 2000.

20 John Partridge, “Cybergripers” Lose Rights, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 19, 2000. Now Wal-Mart has itself registered over two hundred anti-Wal-Mart names in the hopes of preventing critical and parody sites. See also, David Streitfeld, Making Bad Names For Themselves, Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2000.

21 Federal Court Orders Peta.org Name Delivered to Animal Rights Group, IP L. Weekly, July 25, 2000. See also Sonja Barisic, Owner of PETA Parody Web Site Ordered to Relinquish Address, Associated Press, July 21, 2000.

22 Steven Bonisteel, Guinness “Sucks” Domain Disputes Come to a Head, Newsbytes, Aug 28, 2000.

23 Gwendolyn Mariano and Evan Hansen, Parody Site Sucked Into Cybersquatting Squabbles, CNETNews.com, Aug. 24, 2000.

24 David Streitfeld, Making Bad Names For Themselves, Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2000.

25 Oscar S. Cisneros, Mattel: Don’t Play With Barbie, Wired News, July 27, 2000.

26 Gwendolyn Mariano and Evan Hansen, Parody Site Sucked Into Cybersquatting Squabbles, CNETNews.com, Aug. 24, 2000.

27 David Streitfeld, Making Bad Names For Themselves, Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2000.

28 Id.

29 As found by the Court, Playboy Enterprises (PEI):

owns federally registered trademarks for the terms Playboy, Playmate, Playmate of the Month, and Playmate of the Year. The term Playmate of the Year is sometimes abbreviated “PMOY.” PEI does not have a federally registered trademark in the abbreviation “PMOY,” although PEI argues that “PMOY” is worthy of trademark protection because it is a well-known abbreviation for the trademark Playmate of the Year.

 Playboy Enters., 7 F.Supp.2d at 1100.

30 A “metatag” is a hidden word or label in a Web page which often includes keywords to draw the attention of Internet search engines to that Web page. See Kaplan, Carl S., Former Playboy Model Wins Rights to Use Keywords, Cyber Law Journal, Dec. 17, 1999.

31 The Court also found that, with respect to the metatags, there is no trademark infringement where defendant uses Playboy’s trademarks in good faith to index the content of her Web site.

32 See Former Playboy Model Wins Right to Use Keywords, Cyber Law Journal, Dec. 17, 1999, (wysiwyg://66//http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/12/cyber/cyberlaw/17law.html); Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Welles, Case No. 98-CV-0413-K, Judge Judith Keep (S.D. Cal. Dec. 1, 1999) (http://www.terriwelles.com/order_01.htm).

33 Id.

34 See Slind-Flor, Victoria, False Signs on the I-Highway, Nat’l L.J., Jan 5, 2000.

35 See Kaplan, Carl S., Judges Pick David Over Goliath in Domain Name Suits, Cyber Law Journal, Sept. 17, 1999.

36 See also Groner, Jonathan, Court Rejects Trademark for “Best Beer in America,” Legal Times, Dec. 13, 1999.

37 Kettmann, Steve, E-Riots Threaten Etoys.com, Wired News, Dec. 15, 1999; Mirapaul, Matthew, Etoys Lawsuit is No Fun for Artist Group, New York Times, Dec. 9, 1999. See also Priority of Parties’ Use of Marks on Web Pages Too Close to Call, E-Commerce Law Weekly, Dec. 14, 1999, pp. 219-220. The parties ultimately settled Etoys.com v. etoy.com.

38 18 U.S.C. § 706 provides for criminal for fraudulent or unauthorized use or display of the Red Cross of the American National Red Cross.

39 36 U.S.C. § 220506 provides for civil penalties for unauthorized use of the names, marks or symbols of United States Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Pan-American Sports Organization.

40 These factors are as follows:

(I) the trademark or other intellectual property rights of the person, if any, in the domain name;
(II) the extent to which the domain name consists of the legal name of the person or a name that is otherwise commonly used to identify that person;
(III) the person’s prior use, if any, of the domain name in connection with the bona fide offering of any goods or services;
(IV) the person’s bona fide noncommercial or fair use of the mark in a site accessible under the domain name;
(V) the person’s intent to divert consumers from the mark owner’s online location to a site accessible under the domain name that could harm the goodwill represented by the mark, either for commercial gain or with the intent to tarnish or disparage the mark, by creating a likelihood of confusion as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the site;
(VI) the person’s offer to transfer, sell, or otherwise assign the domain name to the mark owner or any third party for financial gain without having used, or having an intent to use, the domain name in the bona fide offering of any goods or services, or the person’s prior conduct indicating a pattern of such conduct;
(VII) the person’s provision of material and misleading false contact information when applying for the registration of the domain name, the person’s intentional failure to maintain accurate contact information, or the person’s prior conduct indicating a pattern of such conduct;
(VIII) the person’s registration or acquisition of multiple domain names which the person knows are identical or confusingly similar to marks of others that are distinctive at the time of registration of such domain names, or dilutive of famous marks of others that are famous at the time of registration of such domain names, without regard to the goods or services of the parties; and
(IX) the extent to which the mark incorporated in the person’s domain name registration is or is not distinctive and famous within the meaning of subsection (c)(1) of section 43.

See also Jeffrey K. Riffer, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Targets “Bad Faith” Domain Name Holders, Nat’l L.J., Jan 7, 2000.

41 See Jeff Riffer, New Federal Law on Cybersquatting Signed, The Internet Newsletter, Dec. 1999, pp. 1-2.

42 The Act also authorizes an in rem action against the domain name; the remedies in such an in rem action are limited to the forfeiture or cancellation of the domain name, or transfer of the domain name to the mark’s owner. The in rem action is available if the holder of the domain name is not subject to personal jurisdiction in a federal civil action, or cannot be found. The venue for the in rem action is the district in which the domain name registrar, domain name registry, or other authority that registered or assigned the domain name is located. See Porsche Cars North America, Inc. v. porsch.com, 51 F. Supp. 2d 707 (E. D. Va. 1999). See also Caesars World, Inc. v. Caesars-Palace.com, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2671, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1121 (E.D. Va. 2000); Lucent Technologies, Inc., v. Lucentsucks.com, 95 F. Supp. 2d 528, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1653 (E.D. Va. 2000).

43 See the list of non-exhaustive factors, supra.

44 See, e.g., Morrison & Foerster LLP v. Wick, 94 F. Supp. 2d 1125 (D. Co. 2000); Shields v. Zuccarini, 89 F. Supp. 2d 634 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (holding that Zuccarini, an admitted Internet domain name “wholesaler,” violated the Act by registering five variations of plaintiff’s mark); Spear, Leeds & Kellogg v. Rosado, 2000 U.S. Dist LEXIS 3732 (S.D. N.Y. 2000); Virtual Works, Inc. v. Network Solutions, Inc., 106 F. Supp. 2d 845, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1126 (E.D. Va. 2000). But see Cello Holding v. Lawrence-Dahl Companies, 89 F. Supp. 2d 464 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (denying summary judgment to Cello Holdings Company, whose uses their trademark “Cello” to sell audio equipment because “cello” is a common noun and a jury would need to determine whether defendant acted in bad faith by registering cello.com and attempting to sell it to several companies which use the word “cello” in connection with their business).

45 See Associated Press, Web Body to Review Domain Proposals, CNETNews.com, Aug. 3, 2000; Aaron Pressman, New Top-Level Domains in Sight, The Industry Standard, July 17, 2000 David McGuire, ICANN Moves Forwards On Domains, Governance, Newsbytes, July 16, 2000; Aaron Pressman, New Domains at Last, The Industry Standard, June 26, 2000 (“Despite some opposition from big business, it looks like Web sites will soon have more names from which to choose. How does ‘.sucks’ sound?”); Ronna Abramson, ICANN’s Plan for Name-Calling, The Industry Standard, June 15, 2000.

46 Declan McCullagh, Free Geeks Want Good Gnus, Wired News, July 12, 2000.

47 See http://www.icann.org/general/faq1.htm: FAQ on new generic top level domains (Posted September 13, 1999)

Q: When will ICANN create new generic top level domains, such as .arts, .shop, .store, .news, .sex, etc.?

A: ICANN and its constituent organizations have recently begun the process of considering whether, how, and when to add new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to the domain name system. In recent years, a number of plans have been proposed to create new gTLDs, such as .firm, .store, .law, and .arts., and some companies have even taken orders for them. ICANN, which administers the domain name system, has not yet made a decision for or against the addition of new generic top-level domains. The ICANN process provides for the development of consensus-based policies (such as policies concerning new names) in an open, transparent and bottom-up manner in which interested individuals have an opportunity to participate and comment.

There are many arguments both for and against new gTLDs: for example, those in favor argue that new gTLDs are technically easy to create, will help relieve perceived scarcities in existing name spaces, and are consistent with a general push towards consumer choice and diversity of options; those opposed point to greater possibilities for consumer confusion, the risk of increased trademark infringement, cybersquatting and cyberpiracy.

ICANN’s Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) has primary responsibility for making a recommendation on new gTLDs to the ICANN Board. On May 27, 1999, the ICANN Board of Directors referred to the DNSO a set of recommendations on new gTLDs submitted by the World Intellectual Property Organization; the DNSO’s provisional Names Council responded by creating a Working Group to review the issue. Any individual interested in participating in the DNSO’s Working Group on the creation of new gTLDs should visit http:// www. dnso.org/listdnso.html.

48 Ben Charny, ICANN Domain Name Race Is On, ZDNewsNet, Sept. 6, 2000.

49 See New TLD Application Process Overview at http://www.icann.org/tlds/application-process-03aug00.htm.

50 ICANN plans for this to be during or shortly after ICANN annual meeting.

51 ICANN’s Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals and TLD Application Process FAQs are attached.

52 Oscar S. Cisnerso, Is .biz the .com of the Future?, Wired News, Aug 2, 2000.

53 Graham Lea, ICANN Adds Domains Names, Stores Up Troubles, theregister.co.uk, July 18, 2000.

54 Information about this policy is available at http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm

55 The policy sets forth several factors to consider as evidence of registration and use in bad faith, including facts which indicate that the registrant

(1) had registered the domain “primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name;”

(2) has “registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name,” provided that the registrant has “engaged in a pattern of such conduct;”

(3) has registered the domain name “primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor;” or

(4) by using the domain name, intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its site or other online location, “by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of the registrant’s site or location of a product or service on its site or location.

56 See generally, John Caher, New Domain Arbitration Rules Get Results, N.Y.L.J., Mar. 14, 2000.

57 Jeri Clausing, In New Forum for Domain Name Disputes, Trademark Holders Dominate, New York Times, May 19, 2000. WIPO, one of the authorized arbitration organizations, has a slightly higher percentage of rulings that favor the trademark holder, with roughly eighty percent of the completed cases resulting in the transfer of the domain name. See Almar Latour, U.N. Court Rules in Favor of Telia on Domain Names, Wall Street J., Aug. 14, 2000.

58 Victoria Slind-Flor, Court Curbs Power of ICANN, Nat’l L. J., May 18, 2000.

59 One Web site, the Domain Name Law Reports (found at www.dnlr.com), offers fully summarized ICANN case law on-line.

60 Harvard University was also sued in a preemptive move by “notHarvard.com, which packages online classes with products that might appeal to students.” Patrick Healy, notHarvard Takes Harvard to Court, The Boston Globe, July 28, 2000. Harvard then counter sued notHarvard.com. Oscar S. Cisneros, Harvard Fights ‘Not’ Knockoff, Wired News, Aug. 1, 2000. However, notHarvard recently changed its name to Powered.com and is asking a Texas court to enter a consent decree wherein the parties would agree to dismiss both suits and Powered.com would transfer the domain name notHarvard.com to the school. Katie Dean, NotHarvard.com not NotHarvard.com, Wired News, Sept. 19, 2000.

61 Associated Press, Arbitrator Sides With Dell In Cybersquatting Dispute, The Wall Street J. Interactive Edition, Aug. 22, 2000. Some question whether the trademark owners “deserve” these URLs, suggesting that there are no reasons why Dell shouldn’t sell all its products through it’s main Web site: dell.com. See Kieren McCarthy, The Sick World of Knowledge Behind Cybersquatting, www.theregister.co.uk, August 15, 2000.

62 Id.

63 Elif Kaban, Cybersquatters Ordered to Give Up 40 Web Sites to Yahoo, Reuters, Aug. 14, 2000.

64 Associated Press, Yahoo!, AT&T, Microsoft Win Cybersquatting Cases, mercurycenter.com, Aug. 1, 2000.

65 Ritchenya A. Shepgherd, Counsels’ Domain-Name Pains, Nat’l L.J., Aug. 30, 2000.

66 Reuters, IKEA Wins Eviction of Cybersquatter From Web Site, N.Y. Times, Aug. 17, 2000.

67 Bernhard Warner, Cybersquatters Face Olympic-Sized Lawsuit, The Industry Standard, July 11, 2000.

68 See Domain Disputes, www.nytimes.com, July 28, 2000.

69 See Reuters Ltd. V. Ghee Khaan Tan, WIPO Case No. D2000-0670.

70 Steven Bonisteel, Tacoma Web Developer Bests Giant Fuji in Domain Dispute, Newsbytes, July 7, 2000.

71 Steven Bonisteel, Famed Golf Club in the Rough Over Domain Dispute, Newsbytes, Aug. 31, 2000.

72 EasyJet Airline Co. Ltd. V. Mr. Tim Holt, WIPO Case No. D2000-0465; Reuters, EasyJet Left Up in the Air in Cyberspace, The Industry Standard, Aug. 28, 2000.

73 Frequently, the person who registers a domain name with a celebrity’s name in it wants to sell the domain name to the celebrity, however, a few just want to use the opportunity to meet or have some contact with the celebrity. See Patrick Danner, High-profile Celebrities in South Florida Don’t Own Their Own Names For the Purposes of a Web Site, But It’s OK With Them, Miami Daily Business Rev., July 14, 2000.

74 Ritchenya A. Shepherd, Cyberpirates Now May Have to Walk the Plank, Nat’l L.J., Dec. 16, 1999.

75 In 1955 Rosa Parks fought for her bus seat, an action considered a turning point in the United States civil rights movement; this year she won the rights to www.rosaparks.com, a site created by a man who allegedly planned to auction it off. “The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit will use rosaparks.com to educate visitors on civil rights and Mrs. Parks.” Michael Della Bitta, Rosa Parks Takes Her Seat on the Net, www.foxnews.com, Sept. 20, 2000.

76 See Joseph Gallivan, Cybersquatter Gets Evicted, nypost.com, Aug. 9, 2000. See the WIPO Arbitration decision at http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/html/d2000-0364.html.

77 See the WIPO Arbitration decision at http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/html/d2000-0475.html.

78 Ben Charny, Madonna Wants Her Name Back, zdnet.com, Aug. 19, 2000.

79 Warren E. Agin, What Is a Domain Name Anyway? Impact of Network Solutions and Umbro Rulings, E-commerce L. & Strategy, June 2000, Vol. 17, No. 2.

80 See Kaplan, Carl S., Copyright Decision Threatens Freedom to Link, Cyber Law Journal, Dec. 10, 1999.

81 Typosquatters not only want to misdirect traffic to their Web site, but also use this traffic to generate advertising revenue: when individuals mistype a popular Web address, the typosquatter places advertisements in hidden browser windows, which very few people see, but for which the advertisers still pay money (to the typosquatter). See Bob Sullivan, Making Money Off “Typosquatting,” www.msnbc.com, Sept. 18, 2000; Bob Sullivan, “Typosquatters” Turn Flubs into Cash, ZDNet, Sept. 23, 2000.

82 See Leigh Jones, Federal Cybersquatter Law Survives Test, N.Y.L.J., Jan 18, 2000.

83 See www.phillipmorris.com.

84 Id.

85 Steven Bonistell, Marlboro Man takes Aim at “Phillipmorris.com,” Newsbytes, June 16, 2000.

86 Cybersquatter Told to Quit Wall Street Journal Sites, Reuters, Sept. 13, 2000.

87 Brian Krebs, Feds Warn Banks About Misleading Web Site Names, Newsbytes, July 19, 2000.

88 A judge may consider “fair use” of a name for satirical or other purposes in determining bad faith. David McGuire, California Passes Sweeping Anti-Cybersquatting Law, Newsbytes, Aug. 23, 2000. “Both the UDRP and the congressional cybersquatting law purport to protect fair use.” Id.

89 Lynda Gledhill, New Law on Cyber Piracy, San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 23, 2000.

90 Id.

91 David McGuire, California Passes Sweeping Anti-Cybersquatting Law, Newsbytes, Aug. 23, 2000.

92 Cybersquatter Assessed $300,000 in Attorney’s Fees, Mealey Publications, Sept. 15, 2000.

93 Almar Latour, U.N. Court Rules in Favor of Telia on Domain Names, Wall Street J., Aug. 14, 2000.

© 2000 Rob Hassett, Atlanta, Georgia. All Rights Reserved. 

The   information above is provided for general educational purposes and not as legal advice. Laws in areas in which we practice change continually and also  vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Therefore no visitor to our site should rely on any of the articles provided for legal advice, but should   always consult their own attorney regarding legal matters.

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