The issue often arises: “Are domain names property?” There is a variety of case law nationally which has attempted to address this issue, and there is no clear consensus. Clearly, domain names are not property in the sense of your computer equipment, in fact, you don’t really own your domain name, but simply rent it in a sense from the registrar.
Fortunately, nearly all courts have acknowledged that domain names can be an extension of your intellectual property rights. If Ford Motor Co. owns the domain name www.ford.com, it can assert rights in that domain as an extension of its trademark rights in the work “Ford Motor Co.” In short, in order to have rights in a domain name, you must first have trademark rights in the name itself. Simply registering a domain, without using it to identify your products and services in the market, is simply not enough.
Courts recognize domain names as a species of property, see, e.g., Jonathan D. Hart, Internet Law 120 (2008) (“domain names are subject to
the same laws as other types of intangible property”) (quoted with approval by the Ninth Circuit in CRS Recovery, Inc. v. Laxton, 600 F.3d 1138, 1142 (9th Cir. 2010)), and have ordered the
transfer of a domain name to address a defendant’s wrongful behavior. See, e.g., Tony Burch LLC v. Yong Sheng Int’l Trade Co., Ltd., No. 10-9336 (S.D.N.Y. May 13, 2011) (ordering the
domain names associated with the defendant’s wrongful conduct be transferred to the plaintiff’s ownership and control).
Posted by: Enrico Schaefer | 2012.06.20 at 11:29 AM