Internet Domain Names: The Trade Mark Challenge

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by A.D. Murray

A.D. Murray

London School of Economics - Law Department


One of the most contentious issues surrounding the commercial development of the Internet is the allocation of second level domain names. Companies regularly seek registration of mnemonic domain names which are the cyberspace equivalent of their registered, or unregistered, trade marks. The problem has proven most acute in relation to the international recognised .com generic top level domain name managed by Network Solutions Inc. of Virginia. The interaction of the domain name allocation policy of Network Solutions Inc. and trade mark law has, in the words of one commentary, led to `chaos`. The main difficulty is the global nature of the .com top level domain name. Whereas trade marks are of the `one mark, many owners` nature, there being theoretically the possibility of 42 different registered trade mark owners for one UK trade mark alone, domain names are singularities, uniqueness being a necessary prerequisite of global navigation around the World Wide Web. The administration of generic top level domains (gTLDs) has recently been reviewed by both the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) and the US Department of Commerce. The question to be addressed is whether gTLDs can be moulded to comply with the domestic nature of trade mark law.

Suggested Citation

Murray, Andrew D., Internet Domain Names: The Trade Mark Challenge. International Journal of Law and Information Technology, Vol. 6, Issue 3, pp. 285-312, 1998. Available at SSRN:

Andrew D. Murray (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

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