Branded web domains could lead to widespread trademark battles

30 Oct 2009

The head of a leading online trademark-protection firm has warned that the introduction of unlimited top-level domains (TLDs) such as .gucci or .cocacola could lead to widespread trademark infringements.

Sylvain Hirsch, president of IP Twins, said the issue is one of the most contentious ones on the table at the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) international meeting currently taking place in Seoul.

Unlimited gTLDs (generic top-level domains) means that virtually there will be no limits for generating new domain name extensions. “Dot brand” extensions like .cocacola or .gucci “dot cities” (e.g.: .berlin, .london, .paris), “dot communities” (eg, .gay) and “dot generic terms” (eg, .food, .music) could co-exist alongside .com or .org as of next year.

“It is critical that ICANN addresses, without any further ambiguity, the risks to intellectual property protection that the new gTLDs will generate. Intellectual Property Rights attached to domain names are the essence of a functioning and secure internet both for businesses as well as consumers.

Safeguarding registered trademarks

“Every day we see trademark infringements and abuses taking place online. We need to make sure that the new naming system will not worsen this situation and will have enough safeguards against abuse of registered trademarks. Otherwise consumer confidence and business development online will be undermined. IP Twins favours a further consultation period with all stakeholders to develop the appropriate framework for the implementation of the new gTLDs and adequately address the trademark protection issues in that implementation,” Hirsch added.

ICANN has also addressed the launch of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs). On this issue, Hirsch commented: “We have achieved some great progress towards an internationalisation of the internet. The fact that in the future domain extensions will be allowed in foreign characters such as ‘.рф’ for the Russian Federation opens the doors to more cultural diversity and consumer access to online services.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Unlimited top-level domains are an issue at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers international meeting happening in Seoul right now.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years