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One of the most critical aspects in online branding strategy is associated with domain names. Historically we found a tense relationship between domain names on the Internet and third-party brands that coincidentally match them. This tension has generated numerous predatory and parasite practices like, among others, the systematic usurpation of domain names for later sale to the highest bidder as a business model.
From a current and practical perspective, in the context of the so-called Web 2.0 that represents an evolution regarding traditional corporate websites, we are faced by the phenomenon of naming and personalized addresses that social networks provide (“vanity URLs”). In my modest opinion, the previous situation is repeated which gives clear precedent of the figure of the “cybersquatters” before the existing policy of the ICANN was consolidated as a fundamental part of the entire works for registering and resolving controversies stemming from the holder of a domain name and a third party for the registration and abusive exploitation of the name in the scope of Internet domains (also known for its acronym “UDRP”), to favor the resolution of disputes by arbitral mechanisms with the intervention of accredited entities, including World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The elements making up the internet of computer networks need to be identified and differentiated from others through a unique and irrepetible address. Said identification is achieved through IP address and the domain name system (DNS). The domain names, which have the legal nature of immaterial goods, went from being a simple electronic address to being a distinctive sign sui generis that identifies individuals and legal entities, which make up the ecosystem of the Internet.
However, and here lies a potential source of litigation, practically any user name can be registered as a URL address on the social networks and web applications with the sole requirement that it is available – one of the exceptions possibly is Facebook-. In other words, under the current “open” regime, without prejudice of the service terms and conditions on social environments (which we talked about in the last post), there are hardly any restrictions for individuals or entities that can be registered. However, faced with an infraction, both brand and unfair competition legislation would be applicable, which have the procedural advantage of the possible adoption of preventative measures ab initio.
While waiting for new developments, the fast growth of social networks, as well as the strategic interest of developing the brand on the Web 2.0, in particular for those companies whose activities cross borders, it also encourages the creation of a wide portfolio of user names. For this reason, it is recommended that all actors with a minimum presence on the internet or that want to have a competitive advantage based on differentiation and brand image should use tools like namechk or Google Alerts before designing their portfolio of domain and brand names that will be used to solidify their digital marketing strategy.
Jose Manuel Pérez Marzabal (@jmperezmarzabal) a lawyer who specializes in the internet and e-commerce at MTNProjects. He is also a visiting professor at BES La Salle and a teaching consultant at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). He has a Master’s in International Law (LL.M.) from WWU Münster and a Diploma in Advanced Studies in International Law and Economics from the University of Barcelona.