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(HERNDON, VA) July 28, 1995 -- A new policy that deals with disputed Internet domain names until ownership issues are resolved by the courts was announced today by Network Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).
The new policy recognizes that an Internet domain name may conflict with an existing trademark or service mark, but that the trademark or service mark holder may not have the exclusive right to use that name on the Internet.
NSI serves as the InterNIC domain name registrar under a cooperative agreement sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Domain names are assigned to organizations that want to be accessible on the Internet. The Internet's growing popularity hasled to an explosion of requests for domain names, with NSI currently processing more than 600 per day.
Domain names will continue to be assigned on a first-come, first- serve basis, with NSI checking to ensure that a requested domain name has not already been given to another user. Like a telephone book publisher, NSI presumes that an applicant for a domain name has the legal right to use that name. Applicants now will be asked to confirm this on their registration forms.
NSI has found that Internet users occasionally select domain names which may be identical to the registered trademarks or service marks of other organizations. While NSI cannot resolve such legal disputes, the company is concerned that domain names not cause confusion or interfere with the legal rights of third parties. Although ownership of a trademark or service mark does not automatically include rights to domain name ownership, the new policy recognizes trademarks as quantifiable evidence relevant to domain name disputes.
If the holder of a trademark provides evidence to NSI that a domain name already assigned to an Internet user is identical to that trademark, NSI will ask the Internet user to submit proof that the user also has a trademark for that name (for example, the trademarkk Acme may have been issued to many different entities for different types of products or services). If the Internet user cannot provide such proof of trademark, the holder of the domain name will be allowed a reasonable period of time to transition to a different domain name. Then the disputed name will be placed in a hold status and not used by anyone until a proper court resolves the dispute. This policy is intended to be neutral as to the respective rights of the registrant and trademark holder to the disputed domain name.
If the user does provide proof of its trademark, that user can continue to use the name as long as the user agrees to protect NSI from the costs of defending lawsuits brought against NSI by the other trademark holder. Otherwise, the domain name will again go on hold.
NSI will also apply these procedures in dealing with foreign trademark holders who have their trademarks certified by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"We want to emphasize that Internet users don't need to have a trademark to get a domain name", said NSI attorney Grant Clark. "The problem is that NSI does'nt have the authority orexpertise to adjudicate trademark disputes. Some have even suggested that NSI should pre-screen domain names to check for possible infringement. That would turn us into a mini-trademark office with costs going through the roof and processing times in months rather than days."
Clark said NSI will evaluate its policy on an ongoing basis, and will remain sensitive to the opinions of the hundreds of thousands of diverse Internet users.
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