Individuals who hoard Internet domain names, known as cybersquatters, can expect a tough time from the new body established to control domain names, following the publication of new recommendations.
Cybersquatters who register names of organisations and attempt to extort money from them, as well as those that register misspellings of popular trademarks are targeted in a series of proposals prepared by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Geneva-based WIPO was commissioned by the US government in July 1998 to conduct extensive research into the impact of expanding the domain name system on intellectual property rights. The results, published last week, will be discussed at a meeting of the new body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), running from 25 -27 May.
Icann has been assembled to manage the transition of the domain name system from US government control into the hands of the private sector.
WIPO proposes that Icann adopts a domain name dispute resolution policy to deal with cases of abusive registrations by cybersquatters - a practice it says it condemns as "an indefensible activity that should be suppressed." Much of the resolution would be conducted online.
The report also recommends that domain name registrars tighten up their administration to ensure registrants contact details are reliable. Many cybersquatters are known to provide false details to avoid detection.
Famous trademarks will also get better protection if Icann adopts the recommendations. WIPO suggests an exclusion mechanism that would "prohibit any person other than the owner of the famous or well-known mark from registering the mark as a domain name."
Similarly, cybersquatters who register misspellings of well known domain names, often to redirect careless surfers to adult Web sites, will face tougher controls. An individual would have to justify the use of a domain name where it is "identical or misleadingly similar to the famous or well-known mark," recommends WIPO.
WIPO's proposals answer calls by many trademark holders for online trademarks to get similar levels of protection given to off line trademarks. WIPO says its proposals give "expression in cyberspace" to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Trips Agreement.
Also discussed is whether introducing more top level domains, to take the burden off the popular '.com' and '.net', would leave trademark owners open to more abuse. WIPO says more domains should be introduced, but the process should be slow and closely monitored.
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