The full text of this Article may be found here.
30 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 399 (2020).
Article by Michael Karanicolas*
he domain name space has become a particularly contentious area of trademark enforcement as a result of the growth of online commerce, an intense competition for popular domain names, and new conceptual challenges stemming from the borderless and textual nature of the medium. In response, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”), a global non-profit which oversees the domain-name space, has implemented a highly sophisticated set of rights-protection mechanisms. This Article examines the scope of trademark protections applied under ICANN’s rights protection mechanisms to demonstrate that they have evolved far beyond their traditional consumer protection function; indeed, they have morphed into offensive brand management tools, whose application in the global domain name space vastly exceeds the protections that are available under domestic legal frameworks. The Article begins by introducing ICANN and its main trademark protection instruments, namely the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, the Uniform Rapid Suspension, and the Trademark Clearinghouse, before demonstrating the divergence between protections under these systems and the protections under domestic legal frameworks. The result is that trademark owners turn to ICANN for rights and remedies that would not be available from ordinary sovereigns, embodying a major expansion of trademark protections. The Article concludes by outlining the contours of ongoing discussions re-examining these mechanisms, and the challenges in curbing this maximalist view of trademark law.
* Wikimedia Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School. Sincere thanks to Kathy Kleiman, Rebecca Tushnet, Zak Muscovitch, and Abraham Drassinower, all of whom offered very helpful feedback in drafting this Article.