A bill that would make it illegal to use an Internet email address, log-on name, or Internet domain name that infringes on a registered trademark recently passed the California Senate and will be taken up by the state Assembly Judiciary Committee.
If enacted, the bill would prohibit the use of trademarked names by subscribers to California-based Internet service providers. If you are firstname.lastname@example.org, for example, you may have to change your screen name.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) introduced the bill to encourage businesses to advertise their goods and services over the Net. The bill is the second Internet-related legislation to be acted on in the California Legislature this week. A bill introduced yesterday would apply existing laws regulating mail-order to the Internet.
Current law now awards names on a first-come, first-served basis, but Calderon's bill would allow holders of registered trademarks or trade names to force unlicensed users to change their names. Once notified by the Internet service provider, if the user does not change the contested name, he or she risks a minimum $1,000 fine plus court costs.
But critics charge that current trademark infringement law is sufficient and that the proposed legislation will create opportunities for frivolous lawsuits.
The bill does make some exceptions: email addresses or domain names that are registered before a given trademark is registered are exempted, as well as users who have given names that correspond to trademarks, such as Kraft or Hershey.
Separately, a state Assembly committee unanimously passed a bill introduced Monday by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier that applies current mail order laws to the growing problem of Internet fraud. The bill is expected to reach the Assembly floor for a vote in the next few weeks, according to a Speier staff member. In the meantime, California Attorney General Dan Lungren, one of the bill's supporters, will hold public meetings to hear comments from consumers.