Internet Domain Expansion Could Present Infringement Issues

In the internet domain system’s biggest shake-up in 26 years, internet minders voted in June to allow virtually unlimited new domain names based on themes as varied as company brands and political causes.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that sets the rules associated with internet domain registry, instituted a new arrangement in which groups can petition next year for website suffixes using nearly any word in any language. The program won’t be cheap, though, as applicants will pay a $185,000 application fee and a $25,000 annual maintenance fee.

ICANN says the move will spur greater innovation and alleviate the shortage of some web addresses, such as those using the “.com” and “.org” suffixes. Other internet experts also see the potential for organizations to take greater control of their brands, since suffixes (“.ipad” for instance) could take people directly to products. Plus, they might help companies guard against product counterfeiting on the internet. However, some worry the new suffixes enabled by the expansion plan could lead to trademark and copyright infringement issues.

According to Boyle Fredrickson shareholder Andy McConnell, corporate executives and attorneys are wise to consider how this change might affect their intellectual property assets. “This may provide companies with a new tool for highlighting their identities and networking with their constituents,” he explains. “But even companies not interested in paying the application and maintenance fees will have to monitor the process to head off potential trademark or brand-name infringement from other applicants.”

“One thing is clear,” McConnell adds. “Whoever gets a valuable suffix first may stand to do very well.”

For more on how this change may affect your company’s internet strategy, contact your Boyle Fredrickson attorney.


About Boyle Fredrickson

Established in 1999, Boyle Fredrickson has grown to become Wisconsin’s largest intellectual property law firm. You’ve got ideas, we protect them.

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