What are domain
  InterNIC and NSI
  Conflict Resolution


  US Green Paper


  About the group

Need for a policy

Since Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) is responsible for registering all domains in the .com, .org, and .net top level domains, it must have a policy for resolving any disputes over domain names. NSI does not allow anyone to register a domain name that has already been registered. The only other typical dispute is one in which a third party claims that the holder of the domain name is infringing on a trademark and thereby causing the complainant some harm. NSI has an official domain name dispute policy (currently at Revision 03) to govern this sort of conflict.

NSI's position

NSI states that it "neither acts as arbiter nor provides resolution of disputes between registrants and third party complainants." Basically, NSI wishes to stay out of disputes, and instead will simply facilitate the resolution of such conflicts.

NSI's procedure

For NSI to do anything at all, the complainant must first submit proof of currently valid trademark registration that is identical to the second-level domain name (e.g., stanford in the case of and a copy of written notice to the registrant (as well as proof of receipt) informing the registrant of the believed trademark violation. After this, NSI will do the following:

  1. NSI will check the registration date of the domain. If the domain was registered before the complainant registered the trademark, then NSI will do nothing, since the trademark cannot be applied to a name that was used before the trademark was registered.
  2. Otherwise, NSI will request proof of trademark from the registrant. If the registrant held the trademark before the date on which the complainant informed the registrant of believed trademark violation, then NSI will do nothing, since the registrant, holding a trademark on the name as well, is entitled to the name.
  3. Otherwise, NSI will place the domain name on hold after giving the registrant time and help to transfer to a new domain.
  4. If the registrant neither proves its right to the name, nor relinquishes the name, nor files a civil action against the complainant, then NSI will simply place the domain name on hold. Placing a domain name on hold means that that domain name will be completely inaccessible: nobody else can register it, and nobody can connect to computers in that domain.
  5. If a domain is placed on hold, NSI will reinstate the name if a court orders it to do so, or if it received notification that the parties have resolved their dispute, or if the complainant does not wish the name to go on hold.

Legal actions

If either the complainant or the registrant file any sort of civil action and supplies NSI with the documentation, NSI will do nothing and leave everything as it is until ordered to do otherwise by a court. Essentially, as soon as a court becomes involved, NSI will take no independent action, and will only change the ownership of the protested domain to adhere with the court's decision.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The current system honors both trademark holders and domain registrants in a fair way. If a domain registrant either held the domain before the trademark holder obtained the trademark, then the registrant ought to keep the domain, since it was using the name first. Likewise, if both parties hold the same trademark (in two different fields), then the one that gets the domain first ought to keep the domain, since both parties have equal stake on the domain name. This is, in fact, the way the current system handles it.

However, the system contains three major flaws. First, non-trademarks receive no protection. When Mark Newton, for example, registered, he was sued by Apple Computer, which owns a trademark on "Newton" (its former handheld computing device). Personal names cannot be trademarked, so individuals will not be able to easily get their name as a domain if they wanted. Likewise, localities cannot trademark their names, so the District of Columbia lost to DC Comics.

Second, as hinted at earlier, the current system makes it difficult for parties in different fields but with the same name to register appropriate domains. For example, if United Movers wants a website, it might come in conflict with United Airlines. Both can own a trademark on "United," since they are in different fields, but the domain naming system allocates all businesses as .com, so both would have to contend for

Third, being forced to change domains when a conflict arises may be prohibitively expensive for the registrant. That party incurs the cost of reprinting all materials referring to the original domain, such as business cards and brochures and letterhead. Also, the old owner of the domain will lose traffic as viewers might not be fully informed of the changes. The alternative to relinquishing the domain -- fighting a legal battle -- is also extraorinarily expensive.

Overall, these three issues tend to favor large businesses. Smaller businesses and individuals cannot afford to contend with more wealthy entities that may try to contest a domain.