Domain name game to get hot this summer

Summary:Be ready for the great name grab for new top-level domains such as .biz recently approved by ICANN. Trademark holders are lining up to get their names first.

SAN FRANCISCO--Companies in charge of the newest top-level domains on Monday gave a glimpse of their plans for handling the online land grab that's sure to follow the launch of new Internet addresses.

Speaking before an audience of attorneys at the International Trademark Association's annual meeting here, companies administering the .info, .pro, .name and .biz domains vowed to protect the rights of intellectual property holders as they introduce the new addresses.

Kent Jordan, who represented .info registry Afilias, said the process has been challenged by people who believe that trademark holders should not have first crack at domain names containing their names. "We reject that," he told the audience.

Last November, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved seven new top-level domains--.info, .pro, .name, . biz, .aero, .coop and .museum--to be added to the current offerings of .com, .net and .org. The additions mark the largest change to the Internet address system since it was started.

When the new domains become available--which in some cases will happen early this summer--citizens, companies, protesters and families are expected to flood registrars in an attempt to score a prime piece of Internet real estate.

Because they were addressing a packed room of trademark attorneys, each registry representative tried to answer the most controversial question about the new process: How do companies and trademark owners protect their rights as the new domains go online?

Nearly every company said it would implement a "sunrise period," a 30- to 45-day window during which trademark owners could come forward to stake a claim to the domain name containing their mark (such as Microsoft.info). RegistryPro, which will oversee .pro; Global Name Registry, which will administer .name; and Afilias, which will be in charge of .info, all had such a plan.

Only NeuLevel, the company that will oversee .biz, will not offer a sunrise period. Instead, the company plans a more elaborate system through which companies will have to submit intellectual property claims to their mark that will then be judged for authenticity.

Even the registry of .name, a top-level domain designed to let individuals and families nab a new Internet home, will work with corporate bigwigs to combat cybersquatting. The company is allowing owners of names such as "Harry Potter" or "Mickey Mouse" to file early claims to those monikers.

How easy will it be for the little guy to secure space using the new domains? Not very. Although the process opens the potential for many more names than currently exist, there are severe restrictions on most domains.

For example, those that use .biz must be commercial sites--although the registry says it plans to use a random domain name assignment process to ensure, for example, that United Airlines and businesses with a trademark on the word "United" have equal shots at the United.biz domain name.

The domain .aero is reserved for airplane-related companies, and .pro is limited to certain professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants, with architects and engineers soon to follow.

Elana Broitman, a lawyer representing RegistryPro, told the room full of fellow attorneys that such restrictions will naturally hinder abuse because those professions have a higher level of ethics than other groups and "would be less likely to cybersquat."

Topics: Patents

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