What is ICANN?

ICANN And The Internet

"ICANN" is the acronym for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit corporation formed in 1998 dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policies related to the Internet’s unique identifiers – domain names. However, ICANN doesn't control content on the Internet or regulate unsolicited bulk Email (UBE) or unsolicited commercial email (UCE/SPAM).  Also, it doesn't provide the public with access to the Internet. So, what is ICANN and what does it do? ICANN does, through its Internet naming system, have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

ICANN Accredited Registrars for Domains

You can purchase domains through an accredited registrar. ICANN maintains a current directory of accredited registrars. Furthermore, ICANN provides guidelines on certain domain name transactions but the guidelines are not necessarily mandates. However, each accredited registrar could set its own rules and procedures. Importantly, domains are available on a first-to-file basis. Domains are renewable on an ongoing basis. Therefore, it's imperative to keep track of the renewal period. Failure to renew a domain can result in registration and use by another. 

Protecting Trademarks in Domain Names

Domain names should be easily identifiable, easy to remember, and act as business identifiers for an online business. Some online businesses use existing trademarks as their domain names to attract potential customers to their websites. Third parties may try to profit by registering domain names incorporating trademarks of others. They then sell them to the highest bidder (cybersquatting).  In such cases, trademark owners may file a complaint under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) through ICANN. Alternatively, trademark owners can file suit in U.S. federal court under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

UDRP for Domain Name Conflicts

The UDRP includes a set of rules aimed at resolving ownership disputes over domain names. For example, it protects global top level domains such as: .aero, .biz, .com, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, .net, and .org. In most cases, ICANN does not generally apply UDRP procedures to country-code top-level domains. 

Registrants of global top-level domains offered by ICANN-accredited registrars agree to the terms of the UDRP as a prerequisite of the domain name registration agreement. UDRP enables trademark holders to retrieve domain names without having to go through a lengthy and expensive legal process through the court system. Instead, the UDRP governs an administrative or arbitration procedure before one of four of the following organizations: (1) the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Switzerland; (2) the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) in the U.S.; (3) eResolution in Canada; and (4) the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution (CPRADR) in the U.S.

UDRP Complaints

Under the UDRP procedures conceived by ICANN, the trademark owner must file a complaint with one of the four organization described above and prove: (1) that the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which it has rights; (2) the current domain name holder has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and (3) the domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith. In most cases, the arbitration body will issue a ruling within a few months. To initiate a UDRP proceeding, a trademark owner should select a dispute-resolution provider from the list above, and then follow the requirements and instructions on the provider's website to submit a complaint. For more information on UDRP policy and rules, please review the ICANN website at: http://www.icann.org/en/dndr/udrp/policy.htm and http://www.icann.org/en/dndr/udrp/uniform-rules.htm, respectively.

About the Firm:

Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the IP law firm and its IP law attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.

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