By Cohen, Jodi B.
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 129, No. 20
NO MORE ARE product branding wars just fought in the traditional media. The advertising war for the 21st century is being fought right now - on the Internet.
Fortune 500 companies are fighting with mom-and-pop establishments, nonprofit groups arc fighting with individuals for the same thing - the right to Internet domain names based on registered trademarks. Lawyers are being retained and tensions are flaring.
Domain names arc used to identify individual Internet computers - like addresses. So, companies and organizations prefer to have a domain name the same as the company. For instance, www.ge.com is General Electric's Web site. (See sidebar explaining further what domain names are and how they are created and used.)
One organization duking it out online is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - better known worldwide as PETA. The are fighting for the right to the domain name http://www.peta.org/ based on the organization's trademark rights. However, it is already taken by People Eating Tasty Animals - or PETA. And the site's sponsor may give it Lip for the right price - then again, maybe not.
"This whole domain name rights issue is a sticky, one," said Mike Doughney, People Eating Tasty Animals site editor and sponsor. "They want a resource, let them pay for it ... the small guys would rather be compensated and I think that is a workable solution."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals site's (http://www.envirolink.org/arrs/peta/index.html) mission is to "be dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals," whereas the People Eating Tasty Animals site is billed as a resource for people who enjoy. eating meat, wearing fur and leather, hunting and the fruits of scientific research."
So, users might get confused if they type in peta.org. It's worth noting, however, that on the Tasty Animals site, there is a disclaimer about any link to the other PETA site, which states "People Eating Tasty Animals is in no wa,%, connected with, or endorsed by. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
"We are amused in the sense that this gun, has too much time on his hands and way too little compassion," said Steven Ragland, special assistant to the managing director of People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "He is so preoccupied, he spends countless hours trying to put this stuff up."
PETA has filed a dispute resolution with Network Solutions incorporated (NSI), the company responsible for assigning domain names on the Internet.
NSI is part of a consortium with AT&T called the InterNIC. AT&T provides directory, and database services and NSI provides domain names and special addresses.
"We have a trademark to the name PETA and we want to do business online as peta.org," Ragland said.
Doughney says he's waiting to see which judgment is handed down before he makes any decisions, in a current case involving Warner Bros. and Roadrunner Computer Systems. Roadrunner Computer has http://www.roadrunner.com as their domain name, and Warner Bros. is fighting for the rights based on trademark.
"Because you have a certain amount of numbers and/or letters, does not mean you are instantly violating trademark rights," Doughney said. "The policy was changed to favor large companies who are slow getting on the Internet, who then suddenly realize someone has already applied for something that matches what they wanted."
The current NSI domain dispute resolution policy statement,. Section 6(c)(1) reads: "Without prejudice to the ultimate determination and with recognition that trademark or service mark ownership does not automatically extend ownership to a Domain Name, NSI shall request from the Applicant a certified copy of a trademark or service mark registration owned by the Applicant that is in full force and effect and that is the same as the Domain Name registered to the Applicant."
The statement also explains that if evidence of ownership of a trademark or service mark registration is not provided within 14 days of NSI's request, NSI will assist the Applicant with an assignment of a new Domain name, allowing the Applicant to maintain both names simultaneously for Lip to 90 days. …