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Central Database, Dubbed an IP Clearinghouse, May be the Answer

Fri, 07/17/2009 - 8:59am
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Internet's key oversight agency is considering a centralized database of trademark holders to cut down on questionable registrations of new Internet addresses.

Officials say the mechanism won't preclude a new Web site from being created at, say, "www.apple.farm" by someone outside Apple Inc. But it would create hurdles. Backers of the idea say it is needed so trademark holders won't have to spend thousands of dollars registering domain names defensively, to block someone from registering them and trying to profit — a practice known as "cybersquatting."

The proposed trademark database comes as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, is trying to widely expand the number of Internet domains, which include ".com," for the first time since the 1980s.

New names could start appearing next year. Trademark holders have already had first dibs when new domain suffixes are created, but many companies fear that if ICANN suddenly adds 500 suffixes to the system, they'd have to register their brands in each domain. Administrative costs could balloon if those suffixes all have different rules for trademark claims.

So a central database, dubbed an IP Clearinghouse, would unify those rules. And someone's attempt to register a trademark under a new suffix would be automatically blocked, until the applicant could prove that its use is legitimate.

ICANN has long grappled with trademark complaints, and many of its critics say the existing system favors trademark holders over individuals and groups with legitimate needs for a name — for example, to set up a Web site critical of a company.

The recommendations for an IP Clearinghouse come from a committee largely made up of corporations and intellectual-property lawyers. ICANN might not decide on the idea until December.

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