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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, August 11, 2001

Businesses winning race for '.info' domain names

Associated Press

NEW YORK — The public won't be able to get Internet domain names ending in ".info" until next month, but already 25,000 names have been taken by businesses getting first dibs.

Want science.info? It's taken. How about movies.info? Taken as well. Books.info? Consumers.info? Business .info? Forget about it.

In the first major address expansion since the mid-1980s, many common words are among those claimed as company trademarks — some with shaky claims to validity.

Individuals and organizations say they're being shut out from the new names because many of the good ones won't be left by the time registration is opened to them. And while consumers may challenge companies for a name, critics say the system is stacked against them.

Businesses holding trademarks have been able to claim ".info" names since July 25, well ahead of the Sept. 12 start for general registrations. Names are scheduled to become active Sept. 19.

Trademark holders also receive special preference for three other domain names — ".biz," ".pro" and ".name." The remaining three — ".coop," ".museum" and ".aero" — won't be available to the general public at all.

The seven names were approved last year to relieve overcrowding in the field of names ending in ".com."

Afilias Ltd., the Newtown, Pa., company running ".info," will let trademark holders register names until Aug. 27. After that, individuals, groups and other companies can challenge the validity of any claimed trademarks through arbiters at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Challengers must place a deposit of $295, but $75 of that is nonrefundable even if they win. Challengers who prevail may then claim the name only if they already own the trademark. Otherwise, the name goes back to the general pool, with no guarantee the challenger will ever get it.

In the past, domain names were handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, placing individuals and companies on equal footing. That system, however, led to numerous court battles as speculators bought trademarked names in hopes of selling them to companies for a profit.

Stuart Lynn, chief executive for the organization that oversees addressing policies, said the early registration processes were developed to make the transition smoother and to reduce legal costs.

For ".biz," businesses were able to submit trademark claims from May 21 to this past Wednesday, although they couldn't get the names right away. They are simply notified if someone else beats them, so they can challenge it.

Unlike the system with ".info," non-trademark holders with legitimate claims could trump companies with trademarks. But they must submit to arbitration if challenged by the trademark holders.

For ".pro," trademark holders will be able to register names before other professionals.

Even the ".name" suffix — designed for individuals — can be claimed by businesses proffering trademarks. Companies can be forced to relinquish them only after three successful challenges from individuals who share the name.

• On the Web: www.icann.org/tlds