There are many grey areas in trademark law that frustrate lawyers and clients alike because of the lack of straightforward answers to what seem to be simple questions. The legal status of domain names has been one such issue.
In some countries, such as the US, the approach of the courts in the early 2000s was to decline to recognise domain names as personal property. Courts initially likened domain names to telephone numbers, taking the approach that, like telephone numbers, a domain name is merely a contractual right (to be associated with a given internet protocol address) arising from a registration agreement between the domain name registrant and a registrar.
Since domain names were not considered personal property, US courts initially refused to order the seizure of domain names or to apply the tort of conversion in cases where domain names were improperly transferred.
As jurisprudence developed, US courts became more willing to accept that domain names were something more than mere contractual rights. The advent of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), which permits an in rem proceeding against a domain name (similar to tangible property), helped move jurisprudence forward in this regard, although that legislation falls short of actually stating that domain names are property.
To continue reading, you need a subscription to WIPR. Start a subscription to WIPR for £455.
In-house feature articles, the archive and expert comment require a paid subscription. Subscribe now.
Want to give it a try? We are offering a two week free trial to the WIPR website – register and select “Free Trial” to begin access to the full WIPR archive and read the latest news, features and expert comment. Begin your free trial here.
Is your 2 week free trial about to end? Upgrade to a 12 month subscription for £455 now.
If you have already subscribed please login.
If you have any technical issues please email James Lynn on firstname.lastname@example.org.
trademark law, domain names, ACPA, .ca