As more companies move, sometimes belatedly, to stake a high-profile place in cyberspace, Network Solutions is trying to help avoid trademark disputes by clarifying its policy of registering Internet domain names.
Network Solutions is a private company that runs the portion of the InterNIC service that registers new Internet domains and assigns corresponding IP addresses. The company charges $50 a year for all second-level names that fall under the most popular top-level domains, such as .com, .edu, .net, and .org.
The new dispute policy is intended to clarify for once and for all its policy of assigning names on a first-come, first-serve basis. More important, Network Solutions wants everyone to know that it bears no legal responsibility for Internet names that infringe upon existing trademarks.
Network Solutions' policy is that the registrants must bear the legal burden of names themselves and swear that the name is not being registered "for unlawful purposes." So, for example, if a private individual signs up the "fordmotor.com" domain, Ford Motor Co. could sue the person who registered the site, but not Network Solutions.
Furthermore, Network Solutions has set out precise instructions for how to pursue potential disputes over trademarks. If someone does find a registered name that infringes on a certified trademark, the party is required first to notify the registrant of the violation, then to submit the same notification to InterNIC, plus proof of the trademark's existence before the registrant submitted the domain name.
If either a registrant or a trademark owner files a lawsuit, Network Solutions says it will hand the whole matter over to a court and abide by the court's rulings.