Owning Words in Cyberspace: The Accidental Trademark Regime

40 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2008

See all articles by David J. Franklyn

David J. Franklyn

Golden Gate University - School of Law


The Internet is changing attitudes and feelings about the idea of owning language, which will affect American trademark law and regulations. This will eventually reshape American trademark's core conceptual boundaries. Specifically, the domain name system is a property system that competes with trademark law and encourages the commodification of words in ways that is contrary to current trademark law. For example, trademark law does not permit the sale of words, but an on-line auction house that is an internet corporation for assigned names and numbers may list thousands of words for sale on its website such as wine.com or business.com.

This Article argues that the Internet domain name system is nurturing a more pro-property view of word ownership than presently exists in trademark law, and this new attitude will not easily go away. As this novel form of word ownership and right of property expands, the domain name system becomes a rival trademark regime that coexists in an uneasy tension with traditional trademark law.

Keywords: cyberspace, trademark, Internet, domain name, ownership, property

Suggested Citation

Franklyn, David J., Owning Words in Cyberspace: The Accidental Trademark Regime. Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2001, 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1100043

David J. Franklyn (Contact Author)

Golden Gate University - School of Law ( email )

536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

HOME PAGE: https://www.ggu.edu/shared-content/faculty/bio/david-franklyn

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