Top Level Domains
Domain Name Disputes - ICANN Uniform Policy
Rules of Procedure for Domain Name Disputes
Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999
A domain name is designation used to identify a computer memory location, which designation is expressed in readable (and memorable) form, rather than in the series of numbers used by computers. For example, typing the domain name "thomascooklaw.com" or the IP address "220.127.116.11" in your Internet browser will take you to our website, but "thomascooklaw.com" is much easier to remember.
Domain Names as Trademarks
A domain name is not a trademark, at least not without being used as a trademark. That is, a domain name must be used to identify the source of goods or services before a trademark right arises. As an illustration of this principle, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken the position that a "URL" (Uniform Resource Locator) appearing on a web page is not evidence of use; the domain name must appear on the body of the page.
However, once a domain name is properly used, the user may claim exclusive rights just as with any other trademark. Disputes over trademarks are ultimately controlleld by trademark laws (federal, state, and common law).
Special Rules for Domain Names
In addition to trademark laws, the use of domain names is subject to contractual arrangements, such as the ICANN Dispute Resolution Policy incorporated into the agreements used by companies which allocate domain names. Domain names are also subject to laws specifically enacted to address "cybersquatting," "cyber piracy," or other activities.
California "Cyber Piracy"
California Business & Professions Code §17525 - §17528 prohibits use, registration of, or "trafficking" in a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to the personal name of another living person or deceased personality with "bad faith intent." The factors considered in determining "bad faith" under this law are similar to those found in the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999, however the right is more limited as it applies only to names of individuals, and not trademarks. On the other hand, the California law applies to such names regardless of the nature of any goods or services supplied by the domain name holder, and even if the holder provides no goods or services at all. It is therefore even broader in its applicability than the related right, the Right of Publicity.