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Monday, May 6, 2013

The Chinese and URL Trademarks.

By Duane J. Higgins, CEO

Whats the deal with the Chinese and URL trademarks?

Let me start by saying that with the impending release of the new GTLDs (Global Top Level Domain Names) that were seeing hundreds of millions of dollars (and probably billions) being poured into this domain name industry at a (dare I say) "dot com bubble" rate. Some individual registries raising over 100 million for their projects. With ICANN (The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) taking in a few hundred million in application fees for the new domain extensions. (for example .free, .music, .search, .app, .eco and .green)

Back to the URL Trademarks- and how they might fit in.

What I'm referring to is a  reference to "URL trademarks" in an April 10, 2013 article in  the Wall St. Journal. The name of the Article is: Coming Soon: A Truly Chinese Internet

The President of ICANN  is talking about "working more closely with China including the launch of an “Engagement Center” in Beijing to collaborate with the (Chinese) government on issues like "URL trademarks."

A quick check of the Internet (which is pretty big) turns up hardly a mention of news articles tying  URL's to Trademarks. Other than in this one article.  One reference in one news article. This has to be a misprint....or is it?

I  know next to nothing about the Chinese  language, Chinese alphabet characters, Chinese domain names, Chinese domain extensions, Chinese Domain Trademarks or Domain name law. And Im not an attorney and I dont play one on the Internet.  However, I do know one thing. The Internet is about to become in a large part Chinese.

Speaking in an interview Wednesday (From this same WSJ article), Fady ChehadĂ©, president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the private body that oversees the basic design of the Internet — said the organization would roll out Chinese character options for top-level domains in the second half of 2013.

Now what does all of this have to do with my interest in URL Trademarks?

The reason this mention in this article about URL Trademarks  is so intriguing is that URLs can in fact be trademarked.  Just as domain names can. In this country, they would basically follow the same rules that apply to all character trademarks.

Just for a little refresher I have included a definition of "URL" from Wikipedia below:

A uniform resource locator, abbreviated URL, also known as web address, is a specific character string that constitutes a reference to a resource. In most web browsers, the URL of a web page is displayed on top inside an address bar. An example of a typical URL would be "".

Now again, why would the Chinese want to trademark that? Or even some variations of the url naming schemes for example:

Im going to use Roman character examples to demonstrate why the Chinese would want to do this just for the sake of argument.

Proposition # 1:

Lets say for example the a Chinese company is able to trademark

Which is the entire URL.

Lets say for example that the Chinavex corporation had a free website service that allowed users to utilize their service to develop a free website and promote whatever service or offering/application they were promoting. The users (URLs) would end up being some examples below:

Now what is the value of the Chinese company for example trademarking  over just "Chinavex" or "" I suspect that would allow the company more control over what is done with the website and the web address and member sites. However, there may be something more. The Chinese have been very big on the "Real Names Policy" for Internet usage. Essentially wanting to force everyone to use their real names for everything on the Internet. No user names. According to a Dec. 28, 2012 article in the Huffington Post the "China Real-Name Registration Is Now Law in the Country."

According to an article in The Atlantic (March 26, 2013):

Real name registration has applied to Sina Weibo and many other popular microblogs in China for over a year now.

According to the article I mentioned at the beginning of my  blog in the WSJ:

Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sina Corp., which operate competing microblogging services known as weibo, have both applied for the extension .weibo in both its Roman and Chinese iterations. (ICANN encourages those vying for the same suffixes to negotiate to share them.)

 So whats the big deal with that?

What if this were taken another step where even if the users were able to purchase their own domain name and forward it to to the aforementioned site, would the "Real Names Policy" allow the name to be masked or would the underlying URL have to be shown/known?  Wouldn't that allow for stringent control of that trademark which is a URL? Of course.

Maybe the individual domaiin name that is forwarded to the site would allow for increased freedom (and profit for the domain seller). However, these "URL trademarks" may force all websites to still fall under some Chinese Trademark laws-and what that person/entity would be able to do with their site. If the trademark were even in the underlying URL.

Proposition # 2

What if the Chinese are developing alternate uses for Internet Domain Names (with Chinese characters of course). For example there has been experimentation and papers wrtten in the past with  "VOIP/Voice over DNS." It actually does work and has been done experimentally. Also, there have been papers written regarding "Domain Names as mobile phone numbers." See an IBM paper written in Feb 21, 2006 by Vishal Sinha). Apparently, all you need is a system that maps a name-to-number relationship. (I'm simplifying). Also, of course a DNS server that would allow for that.

Whats to stop the Chinese from doing this. What do the Chinese laws allow. What could the Chinese do with this or another similar application that involves URL Trademarks? Let me give you an example. Lets say for example that the Chinese develop a new legal method that involves VOIP/Voice over DNS. (or) "Name to Number" mapping.  The new method will allow the Chinese government to issue "Mobile ID's" to all citizens. The Mobile ID's are actually third level domain names. For example.

Citizen X his issued a Mobile ID of "XuanJuan."

The underlying URL would actually be:

Now if the mythical Chinavex corporation had the Trademark to this URL ( Wouldn't that allow that corporation to control all communications that occurred over that URL. Whatever the service was that went over it? If the government controlled the telecom company that sponsored that program wouldn't that allow for stringent control over all communication(s)?

Im Just having some fun. However, Im starting to think that maybe the WSJ article with the mention of the URL Trademarks was not actually a misprint.

Thank you,

Duane Higgins, ceo

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