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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
UN calls for web name controls
Internet search engine
More disputes over domain names are expected
Controls on who uses internet domain names are inadequate and need to be tightened up, the UN's copyright protection agency said on Monday.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) recommended enhancement of the current system, which only protects registered trademarks.

Cyber squatting
The use of internet domain names by people or companies that are unconnected with them.

At present personal, country, company and generic names for pharmaceutical substances are not sufficiently protected nor are the names or acronyms of international organisations, it said.

WIPO found evidence that widespread cyber squatting continued and that there was little recourse for those with disputes.

Cyber squatting

Examples include "southafrica.com", which is the subject of a court battle in the US between the South African government and a US based company.

WIPO also reported one individual has registered several generic drug names as website addresses and that some firms traded securities using names similar to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"Unlike trademarks where you have over 100 years of cooperation and fairly clear norms in widely accepted treaties, these areas do not have the same sufficiency of a legal framework," said Francis Gurry, WIPO assistant director-general.

In addition, while entertainers, sports stars, and people who use their names commercially are protected by trademark laws, most people are not.

"It means that political leaders, religious leaders, well-known scientific personalities or others who make a non-commercial contribution to society are outside the (current) protection," Mr Gurry added.

Recommended controls

WIPO offered three solutions; self-regulation, management by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or legislation through an international treaty.

All three are though to have drawbacks but WIPO favours a treaty with binding legislation, Mr Gurry said.

An arbitration system for domain names was set-up by WIPO in December 1999 which has already handled thousands of disputes over domain names.

Conflicting values

With the growth of the internet, domain names have increasingly come into conflict with trademarks because there exists no system for checking them off against each other.

Trademarks are administered by a government bodies giving rights on a territorial basis while domain names are usually administered by a non-governmental organization on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cyber squatters take advantage of the first-come, first-serve nature to claim domain names as theirs before selling them on to their more likely owners.

As new suffixes, such as .info, .biz, .coop, .museum, .aero, .name and .pro, are introduced, the number of conflicts are expected to rise.

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Business
Armani loses website fight
25 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Step up for .info domains
25 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Prepare to do .bizness
02 Apr 01 | Business
Net body agrees registration rule
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