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Trademark infringement to come under fire

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The owners of domain addresses that have been hijacked by porn sites could be among those to benefit from the introduction of new rules governing trademark abuse on the Internet. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) published its report last Friday setting out a series of recommendations aimed at curbing the abuse of trademarks on the Internet. In particular, it is looking to clamp down on cybersquatting – a practice involving unscrupulous Net users who register a trademark or recognised name as a domain name. Often it's done in the hope that the domain can be sold to its rightful owner for a premium, or to attract additional traffic to a site as people stumble across it by mistake. Both the HTML validation service, WebTechs, and the UK's biggest cancer charity, Marie Curie, are among a number of organisations that have had their domains taken without their consent by companies operating porn sites. In both cases, this has lead to protracted disputes with domain registrars Network Solutions. Both WebTechs and Marie Curie maintain they never received any notification for renewing their domains. Network Solutions is adamant that it did issue the correct documentation but received no reply. Unfortunately, even if the proposals are adopted at a meeting in Berlin at the end of May to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the new body responsible for domain names, it will be some time before either organisation gets any redress. Francis Gurry, the WIPO official who has spent the last year drawing up the proposals at the behest of the US government, told The Register that the new guidelines would not apply to organisations that already were in dispute over domain name infringements. Only when someone tried to renew a domain name would they then have to prove they were entitled to it, he said. ®

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