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 8: Conclusions

Jacqueline Lipton

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


This book has focused on aspects of domain name regulation that have not yet been addressed comprehensively in existing literature. Most prior discussion of domain names, particularly in the 1990s and early years of the new millennium, focused on the need to protect trademark holders against bad faith commercial conduct. Dennis Toeppen and his fellow cybersquatters were the initial touch points for concern in the early years of the domain name system.1 Regulators were in an invidious position because no one had clear policy-making authority for domain name disputes at a more global or comprehensive level. Arguably, there is still no one clear body that has the authority to regulate all aspects of domain name policy, including concerns about trademarks, personal names, political speech and legitimate interests in cultural and geographic words and phrases. While the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has assumed administrative control over the technological aspects of the system, its mandate is to make policy only to the extent required in support of its technical functions.2 The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has assisted ICANN in developing some domain name policy,3 but WIPO’s mandate is focused on the protection of intellectual property rights. National and state legislatures can obviously make some laws relating to domain names, but these are bound to be piecemeal, as evidenced by current practices. Within federal systems, powers to regulate intellectual property rights usually vest in the central government,4 while powers over other issues See discussion at 1.1,...

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