ICANN continues freeze on regional '.info' domain names


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has issued its proposed action plan governing the registration of domain names for geographic '.info' domain names. The proposal is meant to address the various issues related to one of the newer forms of cybersquatting - namely, using geographic '.info' domain names for profit.

As part of its efforts to curb potential abuse of the domain registration process, ICANN has temporarily reserved geographic '.info' domain names until its next meeting in March 2002. Until then, ICANN will further evaluate the issues related to these names.

Cybersquatting is not new, and various new policies and laws have greatly curtailed the appropriation of another's trademark or goodwill. Nonetheless, with the advent of geographic terms and indications in domain names, the prospect of cybersquatting still exists. To date, there have been many registrations of geographic domain names that could allow the registrants to exploit the goodwill or name of a region and deceive the public as to the source of communication or goods related to the website. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) opposes the appropriation of geographic names for private purposes, and has suggested that such names be afforded protection similar to that available for trademarks.

With respect to the 327 geographic '.info' domain names that have already been registered during the 'sunrise' period, ICANN has proposed a meeting between its members, the Governmental Advisory Committee and WIPO to decide whether the assignment of these names should be allowed or frozen, pending a final determination on whether the names should be made available to governments and distinct geopolitical economies. ICANN has also proposed that further attention be given to the ways in which country names are treated in other top-level domains.

Damon Lim, Coudert Brothers LLP, San Francisco

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