Domain Name Dispute Resolution

Wednesday, Jul 8, 2009 12:00 pm
William Barnes

My latest IPilogue article What Jay Leno taught me about domain disputes should be up by now. It presented an interesting problem. Topics at IPilogue are assigned by email a few days in advance. We generally just get a link to a news article. But while the article I got on Jay Leno made it sound like a big deal, the case was actually the equivalent of a zoning dispute. There was nothing in it that hadn’t been said a thousand times before (the case was actually copy-and-pasted from an earlier case by the same panelist). Like I said, this presented me with a problem. I didn’t have time to get in touch with the editors and I didn’t have anything compelling to write about.

I solved (I think) this problem by noticing that everything had been said a thousand times before and yet I had never heard it before. There are five types of articles on domain dispute resolution: (1) celebrity gains control of HisOrHerName.com, (2) evil corporation steals Pokey.org from 12 year old kid, (3) case demonstrates that dispute resolution doesn’t work, (4) technological or social change means end to dispute resolution, (5) jokers keep control of obviously infringing website with wacky donkey argument. I did a lot of research for this article and this list is exhaustive. So I figured I could sneak in a little article on the criteria governing the process and though it might not be compelling, it might be useful.

I left out of the article a scenario that seems plausible to me but I cannot find any evidence of having occurred. What if a person registered a famous trademark and used it for a personal website? Let’s say, for a more concrete example, I registered CocaCola.com and put my blog up there. I’m not competing with Coke, but I’m getting some traffic that is meant for them. I am not sure what way that would go. There is an exception for valid commercial uses and where the domain is a nickname. But what if I just wanted to steal Coke’s traffic for my non-commercial site and had no other reason to use that domain?

Also, while writing this I got to think about an idea I had a while back (I think I posted it on IPilogue someplace). Someone should start a username registry:

  1. Trademark owners and celebrities register their desired usernames
  2. New social networks and websites reserve those names
  3. One in a thousand social networks becomes worth joining
  4. Trademark owners pay to the network a price based on size or some other metric for the reserved name

That way, when the next Twitter comes along, CNN can be sure that newtwitter.com/CNN is available. They’ll have to pay for the privilege, but they won’t be penalized for not being early adopters. It also means a little free money for the social network.