A domain name is an internet address connected to a particular website. The domain name is actually pointing to a physical location or Internet protocol (IP) address (i.e., a computer server) that holds the website’s files. Thus, when someone types in a domain name into a web browser, the associated website page will come up. Since IP addresses can be hard to remember, the Domain Name System (DNS) allows us to use words that can easily identify the person, organization, or company desired. A domain name is typically comprised of two basic components: (1) alias for the internet address; and (2) a top-level domain (TLD). For example, Klemchuk Kubasta LLP’s firm domain name is kk-llp.com, where “kk-llp” is the alias and .com is the TLD.
TLDs are divided into three main categories: (1) generic; (2) country code; and (3) infrastructure. Generic TLDs are the domains that normally seen when surfing the Internet. For example, TLDs include the following:
· .com (commercial organizations)
· .net (Internet related sites)
· .org (non profit organizations)
· .edu (educational organizations, not available to the public)
· .gov (government agencies, not available to the public)
· .mil (U.S. military, not available to the public)
· .biz (businesses, not available to the general public)
· .coop (cooperative organizations, not available to the general public)
· .name (individuals, available to the public)
Country code domains are used to designate a country. For example, the “.uk” designation represents the United Kingdom. Infrastructure domains are used exclusively by the government agency that developed the Internet, the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
Domain names must be registered with an accredited registrar and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) maintains a current directory of accredited registrars (http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html). A domain name may be registered for a specified period of time, usually no more than 10 years, and is renewable on an ongoing basis. It is important to keep track of the renewal period because if the domain name is not renewed, it can be registered by anyone for their own use.
Domain names are intended to be easily identifiable, easy to remember, and eventually act as business identifiers for an online business. Thus, some online businesses use existing trademarks as their domain names to attract potential customers to their websites. Third parties often try to profit from this practice by preemptively registering domain name incorporating the trademarks by third parties and then sell those domain names to the highest bidder. This practice is known as cybersquatting. In such cases, trademark owners may file a complaint under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to gain ownership of the cybersquatted domain name or file suit in U.S. federal court under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Advice of intellectual property counsel is prudent when assessing the best course of action in protecting a trademark owner’s rights to certain domain names.
If you are interested in additional information on the topic of domain names, or if you have any questions, please contact a K&K attorney. K&K offers an array of services in the areas of intellectual property including patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets as well as intellectual property litigation and enforcement. Further information on these and other services is available at www.kk-llp.com.