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Geographic Identifiers in Domain Names--No Special Protection at This Time
This is the first of a two-part series. Next month's issue will conclude the discussion, with an examination of a few more cases.
The use of geographical identifiers, such as the names of cities, municipalities, provinces and towns, in domain names has become a hot topic over the past few years among World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) member states and Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) panels. As city and municipal governments seek to establish homes on the Internet, they may learn that their names have already been registered as a domain name. A growing number of cities have taken their cases before UDRP panels, only to discover that the UDRP, as originally drafted, was not designed to provide relief when a trademark was not at issue.
This month and next month, this column reviews the major UDRP decisions involving city names. In all but one case, cities have lost their UDRP complaints against domain name registrants.
In 1999, the WIPO published the Report of the First WIPO Internet Domain Name Process (known as WIPO1). Participation was solicited from governments, intergovernmental organizations, professional and industry associations, corporations and individuals. WIPO1 contained a series of recommendations, chief among them being the establishment of a uniform dispute resolution policy and procedure for resolving disputes over the alleged bad faith and deliberate misuse of trademarks through the registration of domain names in the generic top level domains (gTLDs) .com, .net, and .org. WIPO1 did not recommend special protection for geographical identifiers (i.e., the names of cities, municipalities, provinces, and towns).
In August 1999, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) adopted the recommendations in WIPO1 and entered into force the UDRP. The UDRP establishes a …