educational

Domain Name Doldrums

Stephen Yagielowicz

I have spent quite a bit of time contemplating the ever-worsening domain name situation lately. I say "ever-worsening" because some of the steps being taken to "improve" the current situation are at first blush exacerbating it – with the fields of litigation being sown by aggressive attorneys. All this happens at a time when enterprising (and often deceptive) cyber-squatters again stake their claim to the perceived riches that await them – if only they had a "good" domain name:

It's an "old" story as far as the Internet goes: party "A" is first to the plate when registering a choice domain name. Party "B" comes along (late to the party as usual?) and becomes incensed that some nefarious interloper has absconded with "their" domain name. If party "B" then has the funds for such an endeavor, the lawyers are called in, and an often one-sided "David vs. Goliath" battle ensues, as the "big guy" tries to impose his will upon the bold upstart.

While I won't defend the practices of those true cyber-squatters that mine the who-is database for potential name brand nuggets like "sears.com" — when their name isn't "Sears" — and their only goal is to exploit the deep pockets of well known corporate entities. Nor will I defend corporate fat cats who believe that their brand name (trademarked or not), and every possible incarnation of it, are theirs alone, and the rest of the world be damned. It is the latter however that got me thinking today, with this article being the result:

It all started when I read this article. There was a particular quote that caught my attention:

"NeuLevel filed a separate legal motion in a federal court in August to ward off challenges from state laws and high-tech heavyweights such as Amazon.com and Sun Microsystems, which fear trademark dilution if NeuLevel gives addresses such as amazon.biz and sun.biz to other companies."

While I do understand the concept (as well as the very real effect) of true "trademark dilution," I simply (in the case of the two cited examples) do not understand why domain names with such "generic" appeal should be the undisputed property of a certain entity.

For instance, if I were the managing director of a South American artisan's cooperative, wouldn't I have a more valid claim to amazon.biz than has a North American bookseller? What if I was still involved in producing Caribbean travel and tourism Web sites; wouldn't I have a legitimate claim to sun.biz as a suitable domain for a B-2-B site focussing on the needs of the warm-weather travel and hospitality industry?

The fact that Amazon.com and Sun Microsystems have the wherewithal to prevail in a protracted legal engagement does NOT make their position "right" —- regardless of how their attorneys may wish to color it.

While I have no idea whether or not Amazon.com and Sun Microsystems' legal departments are concerned over their stake in a "dot biz" domain name (although a prudent guess might be that they are), I have used those two companies as examples based solely on the quoted article text. My discourse as such should serve solely as fodder for thought and discussion on solutions to the domain name shortage, a problem with many sides, and solutions. Stay tuned for more: ~ Stephen

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