Domain names are the Internet equivalent of a physical address, allowing people to find your site when they wish to visit it. For example, the domain name associated with this site is www.kalialawpc.com. This domain name is divided into two parts: the “top level” domain-name is the “.com” portion of this address, which is the most common top-level domain name on the Internet and signifies the site’s commercial nature. The “kalialawpc” part of this address is the “second level” domain name, and commonly refers to the organization or person that owns the domain name.
Domain names must be unique, which means that Acme Widgets, Inc. in California and Acme Widgets, Inc. in New York cannot both use “acmewidgets.com” as their domain name. Because domain names can be extremely valuable virtual real estate, legal disputes regarding their use and ownership often arise. These issues often involve trademark principles, federal regulations, and even international law. The information below generally explains some of these issues. Anyone seeking specific advice about a legal issue regarding a domain name should contact our office or an attorney licensed in their state of residence.
Domain Names, Trademarks, and Cybersquatting
Among the most common disputes that arise in the context of domain names revolve around trademark protections. A trademark is an identifying name or symbol that allows consumers to identify the provider of particular goods or services. A domain name could potentially infringe on an existing trademark or actually become a company’s trademark in certain situations. Certain laws have been enacted or order to protect trademark owners from people who attempt to infringe on their rights. For example, the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 provides companies and individuals certain legal remedies who obtain domain names in bad faith that are the same or are common misspelling of existing trademarks.
Domestic and International Remedies may Exist
In order to obtain relief under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, a party must file a lawsuit in a United States court. This type of litigation can take years, and may cost several thousands of dollars in legal fees. In some cases, the potential benefit of a successful lawsuit may not justify the expense. As an alternative, parties who believe that a domain name registration infringes on their rights may pursue redress from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is the organization responsible for the coordination and maintenance of unique Internet identifiers and has implemented Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) that provides similar remedies to those that exist in the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. In many cases, pursuing a claim through ICANN is cheaper and quicker than filing a lawsuit.
The legal issues that can arise in relation to domain name disputes can be extremely complicated and the parties may have a significant financial stake in the outcome. As a result, it extremely important that anyone with legal issues related to a domain name contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Call our office today to schedule a consultation with California small business attorney Claire Kalia.