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The Single-Letter Domain Trademark Game

Patent practitioners are familiar with the long-honored practice of engaging in standards-setting activities with the aim of having the standard ultimately require the use of one’s proprietary technology.

This practice is no longer limited to patents, but has become the game the whole family can play.

While most standards-setting organizations have caught on, and have implemented IP disclosure policies, ICANN has not done so, despite the requirement in its operating agreement with the Department of Commerce that it identify IP relevant to its activities in coordination of certain aspects of the domain name system.

As some are aware, the question of making single-character domain names available has been a perennial topic of discussion within ICANN, championed by a few who have quietly been engaged in some interesting advocacy within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) along a parallel track.

Although quieter than the rush to the gate witnessed at the Benelux TM office in order to qualify for the .eu Sunrise domain registration period, for those keeping score, there are now six winners of the peculiar lottery being pursued to obtain US trademark registrations of the form

.com where is a single letter of the alphabet. The game is played by establishing some sort of use of

.com marked upon goods or in connection with services, leveraging that use to obtain a trademark registration for the non-existent domain name, and then jumping out of the woodwork if and when ICANN decides to proceed with proposed auctions of these previously unregistrable domain names.

The lucky winners thus far are the letters L, O, P, T, and W (there are six registrations total, because there are two for “L.com”.

Further details are posted here.

By John Berryhill, Attorney

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John Berryhill  –  Jan 28, 2008 5:07 PM

Ah… it appears my wildcard character was taken as an html tag.  It should read “X”.com where “X” is a single character.  I have fallen victim to a character flaw…

Mike35  –  Jan 29, 2008 8:31 PM

John, I see 6 registered trademarks for T.com. Also, G.com is a registered trademark. Its a search engine http://www.g-dotcom.com

John Berryhill  –  Jan 29, 2008 8:53 PM

Yes, all of the T.com marks are owned by Deutsche Telekom, and I must have missed G when putting the table together.

One can also check the other TLD’s, along with non-existent TLD’s.  Quite a number of trademark filings were made relative to (name).XXX marks in a similar effort to “prime the pump”.

The bottom line, though, is that parties claiming a pre-emptive interest in these domain names should be the last ones consulted in any ICANN process for allocating them - particularly if their proprietary interest has not been disclosed up front.

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