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Internet Domain Names Computer Law Intellectual Property
What’s the hub-bub about domain names all about?
The URL, that catchy domain name people can actually read, is a stand-in for the electronic digital address used by the computers. Where the rule used to be (back in the golden age of 1994) “first come, first serve”, this only lasted until people got greedily creative and tried claim-jumping, like the man who registered the name “www.mcdonalds.com” although he had no connection with the Kroc franchise. Then those responsible for registering domain names had to attend to a fundamental legal principle: people have no right to trade on other people’s advertising or to try to fool the public. Nowadays, InterNIC (the organization which administers the registration of domain names) and other domain name “sources” require applicants to warrant that he/she/it has the right to use the requested domain name and that their use does not interfere with or infringe on third parties’ rights. And, not being a court, if a clash arises InterNIC “freezes” a domain name for up to a year, and requires the domain name holder to produce proof of ownership of a national (US or foreign) trade- or service-mark registration AND requires indemnification from liability for registration (including a bond to cover damages which may be sought). This gives the feuding parties time to get to a court and fight it out. The real problem comes when the same name, or confusingly similar ones, can be legitimately claimed by multiple parties in different commercial channels.
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