GDPR: a threat to global online brand protection?


Alexander Heirwegh

GDPR: a threat to global online brand protection?

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There are fears among IP owners that the pending GDPR in Europe will make it difficult to track down infringers online, undoing years of good work by the Whois system. Alexander Heirwegh of law firm Petillion reports.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has received an unprecedented amount of attention over the course of the last two years. The GDPR, which will come into effect on May 25, intends to harmonise and strengthen the protection of personal data within the EU and respond to new trends in today’s digital society, such as big data analytics, data mining and profiling.

Although these objectives can be supported—especially in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal—it is important to balance this with legitimate public interests in order not to let the data protection pendulum swing too far in the other direction. However, uncertainties regarding the GDPR’s concrete application and the threat of significant fines seem to have had just that effect, with potential far-reaching consequences for IP owners as a result.

The best example of this is the recent confrontation between the GDPR and the registration directory services connected to domain names. These directory services, also known as Whois, are coordinated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is responsible for administering the internet’s domain name system.

GDPR, EU General Data Protection Regulation, Alexander Heirwegh, Petillion, online brand protection, global brand protection