Large corporates are winning hands down in domain name disputes because of confusion over how trademark rights should be applied on the Internet claimed a report by a US university.
The study by Milton Mueller of the Syracuse University, looked at 121 cases of conflict between domain name registrants and trademark owners.
Over a third were speculation cases where a company registers a domain name, which is identical to a registered trademark, in the hope of selling it to the trademark owner when they set up a Web presence.
The report found that no courts decided in favour of the name speculators right to profit from their prior registration of a company name. Despite that fact that the speculators did not use the names in commerce and were not associated with any product or service, they all went in favour of the trademark holder.
In the report Mueller is critical of this type of decision, saying, "The fact that courts have extended strong trademark protection to such cases supports the contention of this report that trademark interests have succeeded in gaining stronger rights in cyberspace than they have in the physical world."
The study highlighted a case in the UK where name speculators registered bt.org and several other names related to British Telecom. The court not only banned speculators from using the name but also ordered that the bt.org domain name be given to the telecom giant.
Nearly half of the disputes were 'string' conflicts where two companies with equal claim to the name. Mueller recommends that only way to settle string disputes is on a first-come, first-served basis and that any companies that wish to control the entire range of character strings associated with their name should pay the 'market price' to do so.
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