Wipo seeks legal framework for domain names

Wipo, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, is proposing comprehensive recommendations to prevent future abuse of the...

Wipo, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, is proposing comprehensive recommendations to prevent future abuse of the Internet name registration process.

The proposals would strengthen Wipo's existing dispute resolution procedures, which were designed to eradicate cyber-squatting.

The key to the success of the process, however, is the rapid development of international law regarding trade names, the registration of personal names and geographical indications.

In a statement, Wipo said: "The international legal framework for protection in the domain name system is not yet fully developed. The international community [should] decide whether to address these insufficiencies and establish a complete legal basis for dealing with offensive online practices in connection with the naming systems concerned."

Wipo's detailed proposals include:
  • International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) for pharmaceuticals: These are unique and distinctive names of pharmaceutical substances, selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as generic names free from private rights.

    Wipo suggests that it should be notified when a domain name registration is identical to an INN. It would then verify this with the WHO and alert the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the non-profit corporation that allocates Internet Protocol address space. Finally, it would contact the applicable registrar, who would cancel the registration.

  • Names and acronyms of international intergovernmental organisations: These should be protected against use and registration as trademarks. Wipo has proposed a similar system for cyber-squatters, allowing international organisations to lodge complaints and spark hearings leading to deregistration.

  • Personal names: Some names qualify as trademarks when linked with the sale of goods and services, said Wipo, but it warned: "There are no existing international norms dealing with protection of personal names per se that can simply be reflected" in Internet law.

  • Geographical identifiers: There is no internationally agreed list of geographical indications, for example, "Champagne". Until there is, regulation will be most unlikely. Meanwhile, a decision is needed over whether to stop the registration of names of countries, communities and nations by people unconnected with them, Wipo stated.

  • Trade names: No legal harmony exists on the protection of the names of business, as opposed to their trademarked goods and services. Until there is, no action should be taken over domain names, said Wipo, because of the "complex choices" that would be required.

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