INTA Draws Attention to Innovations in Domain Name Safety

Published: December 15, 2019

During the ICANN66 conference in Montreal, Canada, on November 3, INTA held an Innovations in Domain Name Safety event sponsored by the European Registry for Internet Domains (EURid) and InfoNetworks, drawing more than 100 attendees to discuss trust on the Internet and domain safety. Brands, law firms, registries, registrars, domain investors, ICANN staff, and cybersecurity professionals convened to learn about promising examples in the field and discuss important questions regarding where the Internet governance community should focus its efforts going forward.

While the debate continues about how to define and develop policies for combating domain abuse, the domain industry is stepping up to find solutions. Discussions and demonstrations at the event focused on positive innovation rather than the usual heated policy debates. Speakers noted that while the technical community requires precision in order run its systems, business and legal communities are managing the challenges of rapidly shifting ways in which consumers are being harmed. These hazards include phishing, fraud, and counterfeits relating to the use of infringing domains and other techniques that illegally exploit intellectual property and erode trust in the Internet.

Highlights of the discussion included presentations from cybersecurity professionals as well as Internet pioneer and ICANN Chairman of the Board Steve Crocker about the security landscape and current online threats. Speakers also included registry operators who are employing “trusted notifier” programs, predicative programming, and verified registrant systems to sort legitimate domain name holders from those who seek to use domain names for harmful purposes. To this end, EURid recently teamed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office to institute a domain name alert system for trademark registrants. When a domain name is registered that is identical to a European Union Trade Mark, the trademark owner receives notice so that it can take early action against potential cybersquatters. EURid General Manager Marc Van Wesemael commented, “When cybersquatters notice that we are looking for them, they run away.” The corollary is that legitimate purchasers of domains will be more likely to be attracted to domain names that are trusted and safe, which will in turn drive users to their websites.

Building on the momentum of these discussions, INTA plans to host future events related to this topic at upcoming ICANN meetings and other venues. The issue of domain abuse is finding increasing relevance in policy discussions around Internet governance and in cybersecurity in general. Trademark practitioners continue to strain resources and exhaust efforts in combating infringement on the Internet as data privacy laws remain a hot-button issue impeding access to domain registration data on WHOIS. Innovations such as trusted notifier programs and registry innovations that detect abuse at an earlier stage are all welcome remedies for an Internet that must account for both privacy and security concerns from many angles.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2019 International Trademark Association