I have always had an interest in how domain names coexist with the trademark law.
I was the first lawyer who represented a Russian plaintiff in a UDRP case (KOMMERSANT.COM, D2002-0531).
With a colleague of mine, I was also involved in a protracted litigation over a domain name, which had cost the client over $120,000.00 in legal fees – because the client did not properly renew their domain name registration.
Today, I have the pleasure to share with you an interview I did with Cybele Negris, the President of the Canadian domain names registrar, Webnames.Ca.
Without further ado, here we go.
Q. You are the President and the co-founder of Webnames.Ca. How is Webnames.Ca different from other registrars? Other than being patriotic, why would Canadians choose Webnames.Ca to register their domain names?
A. We were the original founders of .CA in Canada so we have a long legacy in this industry. John Demco my business partner founded .CA in 1987 so we are actually celebrating 25 years of .CA this year! He ran the .CA registry for 13 years charging no fees whatsoever to preserve a Canadian online identity for all of us. After we transferred the technology and registry to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, we became one of the accredited registrars and grew to 30 people in a matter of four months. We’ve been in running Webnames.ca for 12 years now with an ever expanding range of online services. We offer a full range of domain extensions, premium business email, web hosting with servers in multiple locations in Canada, website design, SSL certificates and more.
We are an industry leader in Canada and clients from some of the world’s biggest brands and fortune 500 companies have chosen us. We have a reputation for exceptional service in an industry that is often pushing customers towards self-help with no service in order to get cheap pricing. We offer great value and highly competitive volume pricing coupled with high-touch service. Our average telephone response times are below one minute and we don’t outsource Canadian jobs to other countries.
Our industry is also full of companies that use unethical practices like Domain Slamming and other practices to obtain business. Webnames.ca is committed to acting with integrity. Our Better Business Bureau rating has consistently been A+ in all the years we’ve been in business.
Q. How and why did you decide to get involved with Webnames?
A. When I met my business partner John Demco, I was impressed with what he had achieved and his vision for securing an online identity for all Canadians. The fact he did this for free as a public service for 13 years blew me away. As our team worked to transition the .CA registry to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, we (John and I along with our other partners Stephen Smith and Matthew Lane) saw a huge opportunity for the expansion of .CA across Canada as the rules were about to be liberalized. We wanted to continue to build on the legacy that John had started. Twelve years later, I can honestly say that I continue to be passionate about what we do.
Q. Are people registering more or less domain names today, compared to 5 years ago? Compared to 10 years ago?
A. There were about 153 million domain names world-wide by the end of 2007 and 50 million by the end of 2002. By the end of Q1 2012 there were more than 233 million domain name registrations representing an increase of 23 million domains or 11 percent since Q1 of 2011. (source Verisign Domain Industry Brief).
Today, most businesses even if they are a bricks and mortar store want some form of online presence. Individuals also register domain names for personal branding or to have a personal email that isn’t their ISP’s email address. (see my article about “Avoiding the Ugly Email”). It is not at all surprise that these numbers continue to grow so quickly.
Q. Compared to 5 and 10 years ago, whatÃ•s the average number of domain names a person typically owns?
A. I don’t have these numbers but anecdotally we have business with several thousand domains and those with one. Larger businesses tend to register more domains and protect all of the brand names, trademarks, campaigns and even all the variations of all of these including plural, singular, misspellings across all the domain name extensions.
Q. Several years ago, it was very popular for trademark owners to register domain names with various misspellings of the trademark to prevent typosquatting. Is it still the case?
A. Yes, this is still the case. For the cost of a domain name, it is much cheaper to protect the name than have someone else register the domain and divert traffic away. Dispute Resolution processes are time consuming and costly so most companies and tech-savvy individuals proactively register their domains across the different domain extensions and variations to avoid the pain of losing their domain to someone else.
Q. How often have domain names registered through Webnames.Ca been involved in UDRP and CDRP proceedings?
A. Very few actually. I’d say on average the numbers are in the single digits each year.
Q. Do you have the statistics as to the results of these proceedings (% of transfers for both UDRP and CDRP)?
A. On the UDRP side for gTLD’s:
http://archive.icann.org/cgi-bin/udrp/udrp.cgi has an incomplete list of the archived proceedings between 1999 and 2007 with 18,754 in total.
http://archive.icann.org/en/udrp/proceedings-stat.htm has some past statistics.
More recent proceedings are tracked by each of the approved Dispute Resolution Service Providers.
On the CDRP side for .CA: CIRA does not publish any statistics but the numbers are so small that those who are interested can scan through each ruling. The rulings and the list of each dispute by year are listed at http://www.cira.ca/legal/cdrp/dispute-resolution-decisions/.
Q. ICANN has introduced the new gTLDs. What is it, why is it being done and what is your opinion of this development?
A. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the governing organization for generic Top-Level-Domains (gTLDs) like .com, .net, .org, .biz, etc, has decided to expand the number of domain name extensions in the world. Currently there are less than two dozen gTLD’s yet ICANN has received over 1900 applications for new TLD’s.
This development will change the landscape of the internet as we know it. There are three groups of gTLDs which will be released. 1. Generic domains like .shop, .web, .site, .music, .eco, .food 2. Geographical domains like .berlin, .nyc, .paris or 3. Brand or company specific names like .IBM, .Google, .Nike. The brand specific domains will likely be retained by the companies for internal use only rather than for public registration.
Webnames.ca has been preparing for this development for many years and will be launching a pre-order system shortly.
Q. Will this result in dramatically increased costs for trademark owners as they will feel obliged to register more and more domain names in the new gTLDs or will the novelty be largely ignored by established companies?
A. Intellectual property professionals are bracing themselves for a lot of work in the future. In my opinion, large companies will continue to defend their trademarks and brands and there may be a rush for more trademark applications. It will of course get a lot more costly to manage brands online.
Smaller companies will likely not be able to afford buying up every extension to protect their brand or trademarks and there will probably be more abuse from cybersquatters and more dispute resolution filings happening in the future.
In the end, the market will decide which domain extensions are popular and which are not. Some of the domain registries may fail if they can’t compete for market share because there will be so much choice.
Q. Webnames offers an IP Vulnerability Quiz, which looks like a unique feature. It is commendable that you encourage brand owners to pay attention to their IP. Are there any ways in which you go beyond what other registrars do to support IP owners?
A. We do regular comprehensive brand and IP audits for certain corporate and managed clients. Because some of these clients often register large numbers of domains at a time, we offer a variety of payment options including invoicing, payment by cheque, wire transfer, prepayment and more. Our system is structured to support large domain portfolios with bulk tools allowing for fast and easy bulk updates, including domain registrations, renewals, DNS modifications and more. Our Parent-Child Account Management is also very popular as this powerful feature empowers large companies to manage domain names for multiple departments or clients from one master account. Domain hijacking is also a huge risk and our exclusive “Account Lock” security feature gives domain portfolios an additional layer of protection by restricting who can access the account by IP address range. Our experienced account managers help companies determine domain portfolio risks and opportunities and develop a domain strategy. We can also assist with domain brokerage and escrow services as needed.
Thank you, Cybele.
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