Report: Snowe Bill "Trademark Legislation on Steroids"

From ComputerWorld:

An antiphishing bill that was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week could end up being used by large holders of trademarks to unfairly wrest legitimate domain names away from small businesses and individuals, according to a trade group that represents domain name investors and so-called direct search companies.

Check out ComputerWorld for the entire article.

I have spent thousands of dollars developing my domain names in addition to the cost of acquiring these names, and this bill has the potential to make it easy for companies to take them from me without much trouble. I have been careful acquiring domain names that do not infringe on the marks of other companies, but in the end, I could get burned because of this legislation.   It simply isn’t fair to small-time entrepreneurs like myself.
From what I can tell, the Internet Commerce Association is our best chance at getting the bill changed. They have a great staff working to protect the rights of people in the domain industry, and we need to support them. Please consider becoming a member of the ICA or making a (tax deductible) contribution. Now is the time we need to step up and organize.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. While I’m not an attorney and so am not here providing legal advice (and regardless of whether or not this bill passes in its current form); it could prove prudent to file for trademarks on those domains; including city/ county/ state/ etc geo domains; with which substantial resources are or could/ will be invested in their current or future development.
    Should they come after you with their TM, you can fight back with your own.
    Though not cheap, relative to their growing value and importance, such protection is a real bargain, and cheap insurance indeed.
    Furthermore; given the complexity and obvious importance; such TM filings should for the large majority of domain owners be handled by experienced IP attorneys/ law firms.
    TM work is a dangerous and risky arena in which to practice self-service.

  2. Steve,
    I’m no attorney either but I definitely have an interest in protecting my geo-portfolio…here’s what I’ve found:
    geographical names, standing alone, cannot be registered as trademarks.

  3. Elliot,
    I sent emails to both my Senators and joined the ICA. Thanks for covering this issue, and the industry in general.

  4. It will be those of us that have been doing business with these destinations and communities since 1995 that will be the ones circling the wagons. I know that we have had these names beyond the statute of limitations and our registrations have been globally public for over 10 years. There are also many companies that have an interest in their geos like the Miami Herald ( and Boston Globe ( among others. City municipalities have domains like reserved for them only and .com is for commercial business and that is what we do best. Even Vinton Cerf previously has been on our side. Let’s not panic but be prepared.
    If some of you have not read our comments before on this topic I urge you to read this page at DNJournal:

  5. Michael,
    I had heard that that might be the case, yet a quick check on the first few pages of “Live” issued TMs + pending applications on the city of Chicago turns up three that have been O.K.’d; all of which consist of just the word “Chicago” ; with no associated image/logos to create distinctiveness (and where the word “Chicago” has not been specifically excluded/ disclaimed; as has been done with a number of other TMs which include “Chicago” as part of the word mark).
    While serial #’s 78326527 and 78010051 are for products called “Chicago,” #75900748 would appear to be of especially great value to all geo owners given what sites are and do (note that they did not attempt to gain a TM for Chicago.anything, but for the city name only):
    Word Mark CHICAGO
    Goods and Services IC 042. US 100 101.
    G & S: computer services, namely, providing an on-line magazine devoted to Chicago and topics of interest to Chicagoans.
    FIRST USE: 19970900. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19970900
    Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
    Serial Number 75900748
    Filing Date January 21, 2000

  6. i’ve heard back from Jim DeMint, senator representing my state on the committee. he said:
    “You may be pleased to know that no hearings have been held and no further action has been taken regarding this bill. As a member of this committee, please rest assured that I will carefully monitor this legislation and keep your concerns in mind should any action be taken on S.2661.”
    seems like a canned reply to me. monitor it? doesn’t he get to actually make decisions on it?

  7. seems like a canned reply to me. monitor it? doesn’t he get to actually make decisions on it?

    Probably because one doesn’t want to make promises one can’t keep. If he’s the type to consider other people’s views when considering an issue, then that’s kinda understandable.
    While it’s also understandable one may expect a lot, it might help to try keeping such realistic. Unrealistic expectations tend to create avoidable problems.
    Will an actual body count be needed to show the good lawmakers how many have a stake in this?


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