ICANN Proposed Changes

TrademarksWe have already covered the story about ICANN proposing numerous (or even arbitrary) top level domain extensions recently. However in the news is also a new proposal of trademark disputes resolution – today we have UDRP which works just fine for majority of dispute cases, ICANN proposes so called “trademark clearing house” which in turn would have a database of registered trademark and brand names so when registering a new extension to the market this clearing house database would be queried first to see if there are any clashes.

This in itself is not that problematic, what is problematic is the notion that trademark clearing house should be used aside or instead of UDRP we have today. This basically means that once in the database trademark or brand will stay there for unforeseen time and new registrations will be subjects to the check. However this opens a can of worms since there are many gray areas in trademark dispute resolution today and UDRP is acting on a case by case basis with an ability to clear the matter in courts if necessary.

If ICANN would to implement one and only database check for all existing names, what would happen to already resolved disputes either by UDRP or by a court order. Doubtingly impact of one-to-rule-them-all will be small on the domain name industry. I am expecting many clashes and dispute reemerging from different cases which already have been solved throughout the years. Note that we have so called hack-domain names, then we have typo domain names and finally added suffix and prefix domain names all related to underlying trademark or brand. If UDRP or the court has found out that domain name owner is not acting in the bad faith then the issue of domain name dispute is resolved by UDRP proxy in account of defendant.

Although international non profit organization ICANN still can be influenced by a foreign capital meaning larger corporations can have it register all thinkable product names and trademark alike words in this new trademark clearing house database. I am hoping that this would not happen, because if it would, small time domain name owners and entrepreneurs are going to have a hard time in the future and the horizon of domain name industry will most likely look like the state of intellectual property patent horizon nowadays.

While new top level domain name extensions are also in doubt of what they would bring to the market, many analysts agree that they are not problematic per se. We have had .aero, .biz, .info and dozen others for a decade now and .com,.net and .org (in that order) are still leading the top level domain extension race. Even the large country code top level domain extension like .de or .co.uk are having more volatility than now decade old “new” extensions. All agree that watering the top level domain name extension will just make small ripples on its novelty and then slowly fade away like in 2001.

The real problem somewhat camouflaged by the new top level domain name extension is the trademark clearing house database. Whether this database proposal was a product of influence of large capital holders or not is open for a discussion but fact remains that forcing this database on already established and working system will do more harm than good.