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Domain registrars sued over URL patent

Two Web entrepreneurs accuse Network Solutions and Register.com of selling e-mail addresses and URLs that infringe on their naming method patent.

Two Internet entrepreneurs are suing Network Solutions and Register.com for allegedly infringing on their e-mail and domain naming patent.

Troy K. Javaher and Frank M. Weyer, operating under the newly formed company Nizza Group, on Monday filed a patent infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California against the two domain registrars.

The suit accuses Network Solutions and Register.com of selling rights to Web URLs and e-mail addresses that infringe on a patent that was granted to Javaher and Weyer on Dec. 30, 2003. The patent covers the method of assigning URLs and e-mail addresses of members of a group such that the "@" sign is the dot in the URL. For example, if a group used a so-called third-level URL, www.john.smith.com, the e-mail address would be john@smith.com.

In the complaint, Nizza Group specifically indicates that Network Solutions and Register.com are infringing the patent by selling rights to URLs and e-mail addresses under the .name domain. The .name domain is called a third-level domain, because it uses an extra dot, as in the case of john.smith.name. Even though the database of .name domains is owned and operated by Global Name Registry (GNR), it was not named in the lawsuit.

"Network Solutions and Register.com are the retailers that sell the domain names," Weyer said. "GNR manages the registry, and they're also potential infringers. Initially, we thought it would be easiest to proceed against Network Solutions and Register.com."

On Wednesday, GNR began offering second-level domain names or domain names that only use one dot, for example, johnsmith.name. New e-mails and Web addresses using these new domains will not infringe on the patent, Javaher said.

The complaint seeks an undisclosed amount of monetary damages and an injunction against further infringement by the two domain name registrars. But Weyer, who has previously sued two other companies over patent infringement for other patents he holds, said he would like to work with the companies.

"Ultimately, we are not seeking to prevent Network Solutions and Register.com from selling URLs and e-mail addresses," Weyer said. "We are seeking to license the naming method, if they're interested. And if they're not, then the patent entitles us to an injunction."

Weyer, who is a patent attorney, is handling this case himself. He said that Network Solutions and Register.com have both been notified of the suit. Neither returned phone calls to comment on the lawsuit.

Javaher and Weyer were part of the original group that launched the .md domain in the United States in 1998. With the .md domain, physicians could register URLs ending in .md, such as www.janesmith.md . They also founded EveryMD, a Web site consisting of a proprietary database for more than 250,000 U.S. doctors. The site allowed patients to e-mail those doctors to schedule appointments and request prescription refills via an online interface.