The mass expansion of internet domain names could cause havoc for the defence of trademarks in cyberspace, the UN’s intellectual property body warns.
“We have this extraordinary expansion that is going on,” said Francis Gurry, head of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which oversees global rules against “cybersquatting”, the abusive registration of domain names, sometimes in order to sell them back to rights holders or draw consumers to rival products.
“That is going to have an impact, which is likely to be significant, on trademark protection.
“The exact nature of the impact, we aren’t sure of at this stage, but it is likely to be significant and disruptive,” Gurry told reporters on Monday.
Opening the internet to domain names that go far beyond classics such as 广西桑拿,, 南宁夜生活,, 苏州美睫网,, .gov, and .edu has been heralded by US-based web overlords the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as the biggest change to the web since it was created.
There have long been just 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs), of which 广西桑拿, and 苏州美睫网, comprise the lion’s share.
But California-based ICANN has said the snowballing of the internet – with about two billion users in the world, half of them in Asia – makes new names essential.
About 1400 new gTLDs are gradually becoming available, with the first 160 already delegated to web registration firms.
In the initial mix, opened in January, are addresses ending in guru, bike, singles, as well as clothing, holdings, plumbing and ventures.
Other generic terms on the horizon include .football, .flights, .cards and .bid.
The first-ever non-Latin letter domains have also been approved, including the Chinese for “game”, the Arabic for “web” or “network,” or the Cyrillic for “online”.
“The opportunity for misuse of trademarks expands exponentially,” said Gurry, noting that registering a domain name is a cheap, automatic procedure that takes seconds and does not have a filter to examine whether there is a trademark conflict.