Internet Domain Names, Trademarks and Free Speech

Internet Domain Names, Trademarks and Free Speech

Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series

Jacqueline Lipton

This comprehensive examination of domain name disputes involving personal names and political and cultural issues sheds light on the need to balance trademark policy, free speech and other pressing interests such as privacy and personality rights. The author stresses that because domain names can only be registered to one person at a time, they create problems of scarcity not raised by other forms of digital assets. Also discussed are the kinds of conflicts over domain names that are not effectively addressed by existing regulations, as well as possible regulatory reforms.

Chapter 4: Personal Names in the Domain Space

Jacqueline Lipton

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law, internet and technology law


DOMAIN NAMES AND PERSONAL NAMES Personal names in the domain space raise some novel issues. For example, in the high profile UDRP dispute involving the domain name ‘’,1 the popular Oscar™-winning actress, Julia Roberts, succeeded in gaining control of the name from someone who was apparently a good, old-fashioned cybersquatter.2 However, this dispute, and others like it,3 raises a number of questions about the application of the trademarkfocused Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)4 and other trademark-based laws5 to domain name disputes involving personal names. The issues raised by personal names include the extent to which individuals, even famous individuals, truly do have trademark rights in their personal names. Additionally, the question arises as to whether individual complainants are actually seeking to protect trademark-like attributes of their personal names, or rather using trademark-focused regulations to protect other aspects of their personas. Not all disputed domain names correspond with trademarks.6 Personal 1 Julia Fiona Roberts v Russell Boyd, WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Case No. D2000–0210 (May 29, 2000), full text available at domains/decisions/html/2000/d2000-0210.html, last accessed November 6, 2007. 2 Anne Gilson Lalonde and Jerome Gilson, Trademark Protection and Practice para. 7A.06 (‘Cybersquatters register trademarks in Internet domain names with no intention of developing a viable website but instead to hold the name for resale to either the trademark owner or a third party.’). For a discussion of this practice, see Jacqueline Lipton, Beyond Cybersquatting: Taking Domain Name Disputes Past Trademark Policy, 40 Wake...

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