Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Playing the Name Game: A Glimpse at the Future of the Internet Domain Name System

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Playing the Name Game: A Glimpse at the Future of the Internet Domain Name System

Article excerpt

What's in a name! that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.(1)

-- William Shakespeare

I. INTRODUCTION

While a rose may smell as sweet regardless of its taxonomy, when it comes to twentieth century communications, the Internet has shown that a name can change the scent of a company's commercial future. The Internet is quickly becoming the global medium for commerce, education, and communication. As the Internet continues to grow rapidly, individuals and businesses are racing to claim their own unique Internet address or domain name.(2) But these addresses are not just any names; they are often famous trademarks of United States businesses and corporations.(3) While this would not create a problem in the three-dimensional world since many businesses and individuals share the same name, on the Internet each domain name must be unique.(4) As a result of this requirement, a variety of trademark problems and disputes have arisen regarding the use of domain names.

One of the most publicized disputes involves enterprising individuals who have capitalized on many corporations' belated entrances into cyberspace by registering those corporations' trade names or service marks first. For example, Princeton Review, Inc., a well-known test preparation company, registered the domain name kaplan.com, the trade name of its largest competitor.(5) In addition, domain name problems are occurring among legitimate users of the same trademark who do not usually compete in their ordinary course of business, but whose paths inevitably cross online.(6) Who should own the domain name delta.com when both Delta Faucet and Delta Airlines have a legitimate claim to the trademark?

As a result of these trademark problems, businesses have begun to acquire desirable domain names at as rapid a rate as possible. For example, Procter & Gamble, a leading manufacturer of health and hygiene products, registered the names underarm.com and diarrhea.com to protect itself from trademark infringement, while Kraft Foods registered velveeta.com and parkay.com in addition to roughly 148 of its other product names.(7) This popularity of the ".com" name space has led to many of the domain name disputes at issue.(8) Overuse by American companies has become a source of resentment among the rest of the world's Internet users who usually register under their country codes, such as ".uk" for the United Kingdom and leave ".com" for multinational companies.(9) Such use, misuse, and even abuse of registered trademarks and the ".com" name space have helped prompt a proposal for the overhaul of the domain name system.

Both the Internet Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) and the U.S. government have submitted proposals for new domain name systems in an effort to balance the rights of trademark owners with those of domain name holders. The IAHC proposal not only recommends the creation of at least seven new generic top-level domains, but also attempts to provide answers to many of the current problems in the global marketplace through an online dispute resolution procedure and an international body of administrative law.(10) In contrast, the U.S. proposal entitled Management of Internet Names and Addresses, or the White Paper, proposes the creation of a nonprofit corporation to manage functions of the domain name system.(11)

This Note examines the IAHC and U.S. proposals and presents additional changes necessary for the successful overhaul of the domain name system. Part II of this Note provides background information on the Internet and a detailed look at the current domain name framework. Part III provides a brief discussion of current domain name issues prompting the need for reform. In Part IV, current policies being used to solve domain name problems are discussed, as well as their shortcomings. Part V of this Note lays out the IAHC and U.S. proposals for reformation of the domain name system and explains relevant reforms. …

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