Domain name registrar Network Solutions wants to patent various aspects of a domain privacy service, and has filed a patent application for “Private Domain Name Registration” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The application is technically a continuation of an application the company filed in 2004 but later abandoned. The new application was filed May 25, 2012 and just published (pdf) today.
But wait, doesn’t Go Daddy already have a patent on this?
Sort of. Go Daddy patents related to whois proxy services, but the Network Solutions application compares itself to the services of Go Daddy and explains how it’s different.
The key here is proxy versus privacy. Go Daddy’s Domains By Proxy is a whois proxy service. In a proxy, the service actually becomes the registrant of the domain name. On the other hand, Network Solutions offers whois privacy. With whois privacy, the registrant is still the named domain owner, but the contact information in the whois is that of the service. Here’s an example of a Network Solutions private registration:
A key benefit of a privacy service over a proxy, as explained in the patent application, is that you can transfer your domain to another registrar while maintaining privacy. With Domains by Proxy, you must remove domain privacy before transferring the domain to another registrar.
Other claims in Network Solution’s patent application relate to setting rules for scanning and forwarding postal mail and forwarding email.
The vast majority of whois masking services provided by domain registrars are proxy services instead of privacy.