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New York Times: Brokering Peace in the Domain Name World

New York Times article covers this week’s new TLD discussion in New York.

I don’t typically write about mainstream news articles about domain names. When I do, it’s usually because the articles are inaccurate. But today on the New York Times’ Bits blog, author Saul Hansell wrote a well balanced description of the current battle between trademark holders and domainers titled “Brokering Peace Between Brand Owners and Domainers“.

In the post, Hansell describes the warring sides: trademark holders that want added protection when new top level domains are launched, and domain owners that don’t want to be subject to frivolous trademark claims.

Most of the time was spent on a proposal to help manage disputes when a new domain name contains what some company considers its trademark. Like much that Icann does, it was a raucous affair, with people from big companies complaining about the evils of cybersquatting while those representing domain name owners railed against abusive trademark lawyers. The Icann officials tried to be polite to all sides while answering all manner of trivia questions, including one stumper about how the Treaty of Versailles applies to their new plan.

The question over the Treaty of Versailles wasn’t a joke. It underlines the complexity of what ICANN is trying to do. In effect, it is creating “super trademarks” and policy above and beyond what exists in today’s legal framework. That is fraught with land mines.

The article has one point that is negative to domainers:

The domain owner constituency, by the way, seems to be made up of two rather different groups. There are the democratic idealists who want to preserve the rights of the little guy to express opinions and do business on the Web. And there are organized “domainers” who see buying portfolios of Web sites as a digital form of investing in real estate. (Much of the value of that real estate comes from exploiting typing errors.)

Don’t beat up Hansell for suggesting that much of the domain owner money is coming from typing errors. The article points to an example that is a typo of NYTimes.com, and I wouldn’t challenge Hansell to find other examples. It is a problem in the industry, and one that gives it a black eye. Argue all day about the semantics of “domainer” and “cybersquatter”, but the problem still exists.

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  1. Alan

    Good post and good article.

    It’s ironic that the actual domain he links to is nytime.com – which is not a typo but a very valid domain for New York Time … one of the main cities noted whenever you look for time zones.

    Unfortunately the yahoo feed parked.com is sending to this domain includes ads which highlight the New York Times newspaper and Time Warner etc..

    I know there is precedent somewhere about ads that show and ultimately it’s the owners responsibility but you have to admit – owners have little control over these ads many times and who has the time to watch what ads are shown on a daily basis.

    Someday it would be nice to see the bulk of responsibility for TM infringement on domains like this shift to Yahoo and Google and away from the domain owner.

  2. gerry

    It was indeed a very good read.

    Saul Hansell did an excellent job at simply stating what the issues are. And plainly so.

    But, who on earth brought up the ‘Treaty of Versailles’? I have an idea of who I think would mention that. I just had to laugh out loud when I read that.

  3. John Berryhill

    During World War I, a lot of German trademarks abroad were revoked.

    Basically – Bayer wants its trademark in “Aspirin” back.

    It was an amusing moment.

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