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Net name registry sues for rights to ".web"

An ongoing tug-of-war over the right to be the offical registry for Net addresses ending in ".web" lands in federal court, with Image Online Design suing the Internet Council of Registrars for trademark infringement.

An ongoing tug-of-war over the right to be the offical registry for Net addresses ending in ".web" landed in federal court today, with Image Online Design suing the Internet Council of Registrars (CORE) for unfair competition and trademark infringement.

Image Online Design, which has been seeking the exclusive right to run an officially sanctioned ".web" domain name registry since 1996, claims that competitor CORE has improperly marketed itself as a prospective ".web" registrar.

Representatives from CORE, a nonprofit membership association of domain name registrars based in Geneva, Switzerland, could not immediately be reached for comment on the suit.

In an interview, Image Online Design founder Chris Ambler said that his company has applied for a trademark on ".web" and claims to have priority on the mark.

The company may have a hard time making that claim stand in court, however. In September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published guidelines for trademarking Web addresses, in which it recommended against providing protection for so-called top-level domains such as ".web."

The suit comes as Internet governing bodies are considering officially introducing new top-level domains to augment the three currently approved generic domains, ".com," ".net," and ".org."

".Web" is one among numerous domains that have been proposed to alleviate what some believe is a looming Web address shortage.

Today's suit marks the second time Image Online Design has turned to the courts in its bid to run an official ".web" registry.

In 1997, the company filed suit in state court to stop a plan from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to create seven new top-level domains, alleging that IANA reneged on a deal to sanction its ".web" registry.

Image Online Design dropped the suit shortly afterward.