NetMission Insight: Conflicts between states & the private sector over the possession of domain names

Written by Felicia Yunike (Edited by Jenna Fung)

At the beginning of April, I felt privileged to host a webinar about “Trademark and Domain Names”. Not an easy topic to discuss but, throughout the session, we mostly talked about .amazon which I find quite phenomenal among other cases. In this regard, I would like to highlight several things that I got and hope that the readers feel enriched after reading it. 

.Amazon has been a classic case and example that portrays two conflicting natures – trademark and domain names– and fought by two different entities – states and company. Trademark is generally known for representing a company’s identity and quality. Whereas, domains are known as part of the address for the internet users to access the information they want to look at. 

Some companies register their trademarks by taking the idea of the geographical region that potentially affects the state’s interest. To minimize its risk, the ICANN issued an ISO list that prohibits companies from using geographical regions. It sounds very strange when we found out that Amazon is not mentioned on the ISO list. To be honest, I can’t disagree with the Amazon Company not breaking the rules and regulations since my simple understanding tells that as long as they follow the procedures and know how to play by the rules, they would be entitled to the domain they are pursuing. It was not an easy issue to settle but ever since I carried out my research on this case, I have been wondering how the governments could provide sufficient evidence before the ICANN tribunal. Apparently, if you type up amazon on google search, the giant big-tech company would literally dominate the search results and pages. But such a result does not necessarily harm their cultures and heritages. And if the users wanted to look for Amazon Forest, they would have to type “amazon forest” or play by the keywords. 

The first thing I am concerned about is that there is no clear concept of evidence under the ICANN that I find very detrimental toward Plaintiff. Second, this is the first case between states and big tech companies that was disputed before the ICANN tribunal. If this was not the first case, the Plaintiff could play by precedents (a previous legal case that consists of similar facts and/or issues) followed by persuasive evidence. Just imagine when you are studying very hard for an exam but having no idea how to make a good grade because your teacher does not give you sufficient materials for you to study, you are clueless.

In conclusion, the nature of domain and trademark are hugely different that subsequently creates a rough starting point and things were progressively getting complicated when the ICANN was not well prepared to settle the case. From the case I shortly pointed out, I am hoping that young people especially newcomers have a basic understanding and feel enriched by this case because sooner or later, you will be aware of what is happening behind the scene of the domain you access.

About the Writer

Felicia Yunike is a law student from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She has been actively involved in the Internet governance community since her first participation at the NetMission Academy 2020. Since then, she is part of different youth Internet governance events and working groups, including the Asia Pacific Youth IGF 2020 and the NetMission Buddy Scheme.