Domain Name Allocation and Government Super-Prioritization: Lessons Learned From the UDRP Keep ICANN Out of the Business of Deciding What is or Is Not a Country

Heather Ann Forrest · 18 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 1

Abstract

Governments’ growing awareness of the Domain Name System (DNS), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and its stewardship of DNS policy development fuel recent attempts to steer Internet domain name allocation toward policies that prioritize government interests ahead of all other rights and interests, including trademark rights. As the DNS expands, the top level in its hierarchical structure (the level of domains such as “.com” and “.uk”) assumes the characteristics and attributes, and therefore also the conflicts and challenges, of its second level (the level of public-registered names). This Article argues that these developments necessitate a new, holistic approach to developing name allocation policy in which established Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) norms are brought to bear in evaluating government claims to name priority beyond the limited scope of the UDRP. Governments’ requests for exemptions from trademark protections to super-prioritize their interests in geographic names bear striking resemblance to the claims made and rejected by UDRP panels in challenges to geographic second-level domain registrations by non-government parties. A unified framework of allocating geographic names in the DNS renders such decisions relevant and indeed integral to current and future policy development.