Internet Related Question & International Law
My Company was Incorporated in 1994, in the State of Delaware. We also registered as .com with the Internic in 1994. Recently, it was discovered that a Canadain company formed within the past 1-3 mths,late 97, registered with a similar name, but with .net offering the same range of services across the Internet. At first blush, there are some obvious copyright infringements. I would like to explore my options in dealing with this company. Is there a general rule of thumb in addressing these issues. ??
3 Answers from Attorneys
Name Collision on the Internet
Yes, there sure is a rule of thumb for dealing with this. The law of trademarks and service marks probably applies to this situation, but whether it's the law of New Jersey or Delaware, USA, or the law of Canada is a question. In general, first in time, first in right is the watchword. But a question becomes "first in time WHERE?" Find yourself a lawyer who's savvy about cutting-edge legal issues involving transnational intellectual property disputes in cyberspace. For example, you might consider someone who's a member of the Global CyberLaw Network. See http://www.cyberlaw.se/gcln/index.htm
Be prepared to understand that legal principles in this field are newly developing, so there could be a lack of certainty in the predicted courtroom resolution of any dispute. Be aware that litigation taking place across jurisdictional borders gets very expensive, so the game had better be worth the candle if someone is going to bring a lawsuit.
But there are also "alternative dispute resolution" techniques that might be employed, if both parties are willing, and if properly applied, can be more swift and certain.
Internet domain name collision
As Gerry said, it's very important to be aggressive, or at least assertive, in protecting your rights. You didn't say whether your name was a registered trademark, and that's quite important. InterNIC has developed a policy for handling name disputes where it tries to avoid getting in the middle, but will put a domain name on "hold" if a complaining party shows a trademark right, and they have a procedure for filing such a complaint.
So you need to consult counsel who is experienced in these issues. I'm not, but I can refer you to a local lawyer who is; please feel free to give me a call.
InterNic Policy on Trademarks
Network Solutions, Inc., which allocates domanin names on the net, has a policy on trademark infringement (it's not copyright infringement, BTW) in domain names. The policy, which has been subjected to *considerable* criticism ( see http://www.patents.com/nsi.sht )
The NSI policy essentially says that NSI will cut off the domain name (the Canadian company) where the holder of a trademark in that name (you) notifies NSI of the infringement.
Be aware that people in the position of the Canadian company have sued NSI and won, and keep in mind that anything NSI does, does not establish that there is actually a trademark infringement.
Open issues are what you mean by "similar name," whether NSI would view them as similar, and whether the fact that it is a .com/.net issue makes a difference.