43 Pages Posted: 7 May 2010 Last revised: 6 Oct 2015

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: May 6, 2010


The commercial development of the Internet has been punctuated with legal disputes over the use of trademarks as domain names, as metatags, as search terms, and as advertising keywords. As in previous disputes in copyright over the legal status of software, these Internet trademark disputes arise from the overlap of communicative and functional symbols in information technology. Such “cybermarks” are not merely indicators of product source, but function both as symbolic indicia for human recognition and as strings of computer code in the operation of automated search and indexing mechanisms. Application of trademark law’s functionality doctrine, perhaps with some modest amendment, could begin to resolve disputes over the use of cybermarks.

Keywords: trademarks, internet, metatags, Adwords, Google, functionality, intellectual propery, cyberlaw

JEL Classification: O31, O32, O33, O34, L86, K39

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., Cybermarks (May 6, 2010). Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 94, 2010, pp.1375-1416, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-11, Available at SSRN:

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

4500 Berkeley Place
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-9325 (Phone)

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