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Mainly intellectual property (IP) issues Down Under

Names and transfer policies for .au domain names

auDA is the body regulating the .au “name space” or ccTLD.

In that role, it has issued a number of policies including the auDRP (modelled on the UDRP) for the resolution of disputes between rights “holders” and the registrants of confusingly similar domain names.

auDA’s Board has now announced its acceptance of a number of the recommendations of:

2010 Names Policy Panel

Among the recommendations that have been accepted are:

Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules for Open 2LDs:

  • That the requirement for registrants to be Australian (or registered to trade in Australia) should remain in place.
  • That the “special interest club” eligibility criterion for org.au and asn.au domain names should be more clearly defined.
  • That auDA should publish the results of its periodic audits.
  • That auDA’s position on third party rights with respect to domain name leasing or sub-licensing arrangements should be clarified and published.
  • That the close and substantial connection rule for id.au should be relaxed to include domain names that refer to personal hobbies and interests.
  • That direct registrations under .au should not be allowed at this time.
  • the list of reserved names (i.e., those you can’t have) should be maintained and updated.
  • the misspellings policy should be continued in its current form (e.g. you can’t register acebook.com.au, aaami.com.au etc.).
  • A revision of the “domain monetisation” policy so that it will no longer be a standalone policy and “the definition of “domain monetisation” will be replaced with a description of permissible practice, to accommodate a range of monetisation models”.

When the “domain monetisation” policy was originally adopted:

a monetised website was easily recognisable and mostly followed a common format, which meant that enforcement of the policy was relatively straightforward. However, the practice of domain monetisation has significantly changed from a simple webpage with click-through advertising links, to incorporate other formats such as news articles, blogs, images and so on. Methods employed by domainers (ie. people who register domain names for monetisation purposes) are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex. In some cases it may be that domainers are attempting to circumvent the policy. However, to be fair to the domainer industry, the practice itself is constantly evolving as domainers test and refine ways of generating revenue.

If this were a gTLD, the trade mark owners would be going ballistic – “to be fair to the domainer industry”?????

The proposed revisions, however, would still prohibit allow objection on grounds that “the domain name must not be, or incorporate, an entity name, personal name or brand name in existence at the time the domain name was registered.” See chapter 3 and p. 20 of the Name Policy Panel’s final report (pdf).

Some recommendations still under consideration:

  • That registrants should be able to license a domain name for a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 year period.
  • That, in the absence of any compelling technical or policy reason to maintain the restriction, single character domain names should be released (subject to the registrant being eligible to register the name).

Secondary Market working group

The accepted recommendations of this group effectively aim to put in place a mechanism to transfer domain names from one registrant to another in place of the current “workaround” involving surrender and (re-)registration (with the attendant risk that someone might get the name in between those two events.

Announcements: Names policy, Secondary Market

Reports: Names policy (pdf), Secondary Market (pdf)

ICANN approves ‘historic’ new gTLD regime

ICANN’s board meeting in Singapore today voted to launch new top level generic names: apparently 13 voted for, 1 opposed and 2 abstained.

Currently, gTLDs there is a closed system, confined to 22 different types such as .com, .info, .biz etc.

Under the new plan, there won’t be any limits on what can be the top level domain. Thus, if Sony wanted to launch its own top level domain such as .sony or maybe .psp, it could apply to do so.

According to ICANN’s Chairman of the Board:

Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.

and

ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind,” said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

Some reports also indicate that so-called internationalised domain names have been approved; i.e., those using characters other than Latin letters – Chinese, cyrllic etc.

Applications for new gTLDs are planned to be open from January 2012 to April 2012.

It is expected that it will cost US$185,000 to apply.

There looks like lots of “fun” will be in order.

Some names will be “reserved”. (See page 2-8 of the Application Guidebook (really p. 60)). Then there will be questions of applicant suitability and DNS / technical stability.

There will be an objection process to deal with 4 types of disputes:

  • String Confusion Objection – The applied-for gTLD string isconfusingly similar to an existing TLD or to another appliedforgTLD string in the same round of applications.
  • Legal Rights Objection – The applied-for gTLD stringinfringes the existing legal rights of the objector.
  • Limited Public Interest Objection – The applied-for gTLDstring is contrary to generally accepted legal norms ofmorality and public order that are recognized underprinciples of international law.
  • Community Objection – There is substantial opposition tothe gTLD application from a significant portion of thecommunity to which the gTLD string may be explicitly orimplicitly targeted.

See page 3-4 (really p. 150) of Module 3.

For IP owners, there will be a trademark clearinghouse process and, after designation of new gTLDS, a post-delegation dispute resolution procedure.

So, if you own a trademark, you may want to start planning now about how you are going to protect your interests even if you don’t plan to set up your own cyberspace.

More on new gTLDs

Further to yesterday’s post, ICANN has released:

  • v4 of the draft Applicant’s Guidebook; and
  • an Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of Generic Top-level Domain Names;
  • and two “snapshots”.

The materials are open for public comment until 21 July.

Lid dip: Marty

The Economic Framework and snapshots can be downloaded via here.

Try not to be cynical: this is about giving people who missed out on registering their domain name in .com (or wherever) a chance to get their preferred domain name; it is not about creating ways for registrars to generate more fees or …

According to the Economic Framework document, there would be a US$185,000 starting fee for a new gTLD.

It identified:

The potential benefits of new gTLDs to Internet users are that they may provide competition to existing gTLDs, add differentiation and new products that are valuable to consumers, and/or relieve congestion problems caused by having only a few gTLDs.

Notwithstanding 2 waves of new gTLDs, 73% of domain names registered in “open” gTLDs are still registered in .com (which accounts for only 6.3% of all domain names). “Only” 52% of survey respondents who registered their domain name in .biz, for example, had registered the domain “for defensive purposes”, i.e., to stop someone else registering it. So much for competition and reducing congestion. How many people can register “coca-cola” anyway?

Apparently, one fifth of survey respondents who registered in .biz or .info or .name had not previously registered a domain name and 55% claimed to have registered a different domain name to names registered in a pre-existing gTLD. However, looking at duplicate domain names registered in more than 1 open gTLD:

a high percentage of domain names registered on .info were also registered on .com (89 percent), .net (81 percent), and .org (75 percent), and a high percentage of domain names registered on .biz were also registered on .com (85 percent).

but:

only 11 percent of the overlapping .info and .com names were registered to the same owner. For .biz and .com overlap, the percentage registered to the same owner was higher, 42 percent.

A different study by Zittrain and Edelman based on a sample of 823 names registered in both .biz and .com estimated about 20-30% were registered to the same person.

About half of the registrations in .info and .biz were inactive, while 15% simply redirected to another website.

New gTLDs might reduce search costs, perhaps, on the theory that you would only have to go to the .canon gTLD to find information about Canon’s products. Would Canon give up canon.com? Who searches that way anyway? Only 90% of survey respondents reported using a search engine to find things on the Internet – so for those users of search engines, new gTLDs are “less likely” to reduce search costs. How long does it take to get a search result from Google or Bing! or Yahoo (may be a problem with exclamation marks here)?

On the negative side, the Economic Framework reports an estimate of legal costs for UDRP proceedings in the order of US$1.58 million which “suggests that the external costs associated with cyber-squatting in new gTLDs would be low”, although the study does acknowledge that there would be an increase in costs having regard to steps taken outside the UDRP.

The Framework also reports on a fascinating study about “typosquatting”. Apparently, about 80% of the sample misspelt domain names resolved to pay-per-click advertising sites.

“Industry sources” reported to ICANN that it costs a company between US$6,000 and %15,000 p.a. to monitor each trade mark that is being protected. [What monitoring activities are your clients spending that money on?]

There is lots more fascinating detail in the Economic Framework document in particular.

Australian government consults on new gTLDs

ICANN is considering introducing new gTLDs – the top level domains that come after the last “dot” in a domain name (e.g., .com, .au).

The Australian government is now seeking your views on what it’s position should be.

You can find out more, and the contact details, here (pdf).

Marty Schwimmer looked at some of the issues for someone thinking of introducing their own .brand (via here). More ICANN resources via here.

I didn’t see a deadline for submissions.

dot “brand” TLDs

ICANN is looking at introducing new top level domains where, instead of .com or .net, it would be .[brand] e.g., .sony (of course, I have no idea whether or not Sony would be thinking of such a TLD).

Marty Schwimmer looks at some of the things a brand owner who wished to have their own (top level) space on the internet would need to think about.

Levying execution against a domain name

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling in which a creditor of John Zuccarini successfully levied execution against a domain name held in Mr  Zuccarini’s name.

Mr Zuccarini, sometimes known as Cupcake Patrol and other “colourful” noms de plume, may be familiar to those of you around in the “old” days of the UDRP from the frequency in which he appeared as a respondent.

Venkat, in a guest post on Professor Goldman’s Technology and Marketing blog, highlights, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling permitted execution on the basis of the location of the domain name registrar. So, if your client has registered his/her/its domain name through a US registrar, the domain name could be at risk if your client becomes embroiled in a dispute with someone who has access to the US legal system.

boohoo.com v missboo.co.uk

Warren J has granted an interim injunction to Wasabi Frog restraining until trial the operation of an online clothing retailer.

Wasabi Frog has traded since 2006 as an online retailer of young women’s fashion at Boo Hoo and Boohoo.com. It also has CTMs for BOO HOO, BOOHOO.COM and BOO.

missboo.co.uk started up in September 2009 as an online retailer of women’s fashion, targetting the same demographic: 17 to 25 year olds.

His Lordship found a triable issue on likelihood of confusion on the basis of a number of factors. One involved another player in the fashion industry apparently mistaking the applicant for the defendant.

Interestingly, another was the inferences to be drawn by traffic that Wasabi Frog generated after purchasing the Google Ad Words “Miss Boo”. Other aspects considered included the similarities in the respective companies’ websites and the “very very savvy” target markets of both companies.

Damages were clearly not an adequate remedy for Wasabi Frog, all the more so as the defendant was impecunious.

Wasabi Frog Ltd v Miss Boo Ltd [2009] EWHC 2767 (Ch)

Lid dip: Peter A Clarke

Google’s sale of keywords could be trade mark use

Well, strictly speaking, the 2nd Circuit in the USA has held that Google’s sale of keywords may be use in commerce.

Rescuecom had sued Google for trademark infringement by selling advertisements (sponsored links) triggered by Rescuecom’s trademark. The District Court had dismissed the claim on the grounds that Google’s conduct was not use in commerce. So now it goes back to the District Court.

Of course, Google’s conduct, if were done in Australia or transacted with a business located in Australia, would be in trade or commerce for the purposes of the Trade Practices Act. In context, however, the nearest analogue under our law is whether or not the conduct might be “use as a trade mark” (in the sense of using the sign in the course of trade) for the purposes of s 120 of the Trade Marks Act.

Professor Goldman considers the ramifications under US law (and the distinguishing of WhenU) here.

Domain names and regulatory requirements

If the (US) FDA requires you to include information about the risks of using your drug and Google’s AdSense has a 95 character limit, what do you do?

Prof. Manara explores how companies, particularly pharmaceutical companies, are using domain names to ensure that their online presence doesn’t contravene regulatory requirements such as FDA requirements to include information about risks in materials advertising drugs.

WIPO UDRP annual report

WIPO’s annual report summarising developments in domain name disputes for 2008 has been published here.

The headline attracting news around the world:

a record 2,329 complaints filed

Interestingly,

the WIPO Center has received 14,663 UDRP or UDRP-based cases (gTLDs and ccTLDs), covering 26,262 separate domain names. Reflecting the truly global scope of this dispute mechanism, named parties to WIPO cases represented over 100 countries in 2008 alone. The United States of America (US), France, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Switzerland and Spain were the most frequent bases for complainants, while the US, the UK, China, Spain, Canada, and France were the most represented countries by named respondent party

and

almost 30% of all cases were settled without a panel decision. Of the remainder, 85% of the panel decisions favored the complainant, while 15% of the complaints were denied, leaving the names in the possession of the registration holder. Cases were handled by 285 WIPO panelists from 40 countries.

There are also short notes on what sectors were affected, and further developments in the domain name space.

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