'i.ph' domain may become a boon for cybergripers


DotPh, the Philippine domain name registrar, has started offering anonymous registrations under the 'i.ph' domain. 'i.ph', the world's first anonymous domain, is intended to support bloggers and individuals who maintain websites for personal purposes.

The 'i.ph' domain differs from other domains in two key areas. Firstly, DotPh dispenses with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' requirement that the registrant warrant that (i) "to [his or her] knowledge, the registration of the domain name will not infringe upon or otherwise violate the rights of any third party", and (ii) he or she "will not knowingly use the domain name in violation of any applicable laws or regulations".

DotPh argues that the registrant of a domain name cannot know "the rights of any third party" under the laws of all countries. Accordingly, DotPh limits those representations to the laws of the country where the domain name registrant is based. This, however, is a misapprehension of the meaning of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which provides that a registrant is not made liable for lack of knowledge but only for knowingly violating pertinent laws after the registrant has been notified of a third-party's rights under them.

Further, DotPh does not require that the registrant show that he or she has legitimate rights in the domain name. DotPh's argument is that mark owners may use the requirement set out in Paragraph 4(c) of the UDRP to stifle legitimate criticism of their marks.

Secondly, DotPh dispenses with all of the identifiability requirements applicable to other registrants. 'i.ph' registrants only need an email address, which may be a fictitious name, and a mobile telephone number, which may be a pre-paid account whose owner is unidentifiable.

Anonymous domain names encourage hijackers and bloggers to publish derogatory materials against utility companies or other large corporations, which are the usual targets of consumer protests. Trademark owners will find it difficult to identify the unauthorized users in a court action. They would not even enjoy any presumption against the registrants who may disparage their services and tarnish their reputation using their own trademarks as anonymous domains.

The 'i.ph' domain may also encourage other countries to adopt these peculiar rules and defeat the purpose of the UDRP: predictability of dispute resolution on the basis of rules that apply to all parties regardless of the country of registration.

It seems that trademark owners can pre-empt cybergripers only by defensively registering their trademarks as 'i.ph' domain names.

Vicente B Amador, Sycip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, Manila

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