Domain Name as an Intellectual Property

Domain name function on the internet same as physical address work in the physical world. They are the name of any organisation in the cyber world. They help in identifying a business on the internet. They are the strings that work as a locator on the internet. Domain names are a part of Uniform Resource Locator and they help in accessing a web-site. Domain name is normally divided into three parts. For example, can be split into three parts

Top-Level Domain Name (TLD) –  com

Second-Level Domain Name (SLD)- Yahoo

Host Name- www

All the three elements are separated by the dots.

The first commercial Internet domain name, in the TLD com, was registered on 15 March 1985 in the name by Symbolics Inc., a computer systems firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Initially domain names were not treated as an Intellectual Property; it was registered on first come first serve basis. But with the advent of E-commerce, domain name started working as an identifier of business and presently they are as important as a trademark is for physical world’s business. Domain Name gives identity to a business or service. Nowadays choosing a domain name has become a strategic issue as it provides identity to the business in the cyber world. Initially when domain names were registered on first come first serve basis, people started registering famous trademarks as their domain name this led to cybersquatting. Laws were amended to resolve this issue. Presently if a person tries to use other’s trademark as a domain name he may face punishment or penalty.

As a business in the cyber world increasing day by day so the importance and role of the domain name will be too.  As per  Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, “Domains have and will continue to go up in value faster than any other commodity ever known to man”. The statement itself explains the importance of domain name in the e-business.

Domain names are considered as vital as a trademark for offline business. In India too, domain names are given the status of Intellectual Property (Trademark ) and are protected. In this context, a reference to Satyam Infoway Ltd. v. Sifynet Solutions Pvt. Ltd. is significant. The said case is the very first case of Domain name dispute. The Supreme Court, in this case, marked that the Indian Trade Marks Act, 1999 is applicable to the regulation of domain names. The decision was given in favour of Satyam Infoway. The court observed that domain names may have all the features of trademarks. The court also considered that a confusion can be created in the market due to identical or similar domain names. In case of identical or similar domain name a user can get directed to the website which is not owned by the legitimate user. Here, for example, the user can relate sifynet’s website to Satyam’s website and if he is directed to Sifynet’s website he may not found the products or services provided by Satyam Corporation. This could lead to the domain name’s owner suffering a loss of market share and goodwill. The court also said that Trademark Act may not be sufficient to protect the Domain name internationally so the provisions made by WIPO, and ICANN would also be applicable.


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