Monday, March 22, 2010

Canon Shoots for Increased Online Communication with Dot Canon TLD

Last week, Canon Inc. made an announcement that the company would seek to acquire the .canon top-level domain and use the new TLD "to increase the convenience and effectiveness of its online communications."

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the company name dates to 1934 when a prototype camera was dubbed "Kwanon" after the Buddhist Bodhisattva "Guan Yin," associated with compassion, mercy and love. Of course, the textual components of the CANON mark also represent the generic term, "canon," which is defined as the "body of ecclesiastical law" and "the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art." In fact, the adoption of the mark CANON sought to represent both of these concepts and thus "worthy of a company involved with precision equipment, where accuracy is fundamentally important."

Despite the recent economic downturn, Canon appears to be doing well, projecting to post an operating profit that may double the company's original projection for the quarter ending this month and acquiring recently the Dutch photocopy maker Oce. Today, Canon represents the world's largest digital camera maker and yet office imaging products and computer peripherals constitute more than 60% of Canon's sales.

So what might Canon be planning for the .canon TLD? In November 2008, MarkMonitor hosted a webinar, "Protecting Your Brand Online: From TLD to new gTLD," which may shed some light, in which three examples were suggested with regard to trademark owners might use a new top-level domain: restricted use by the trademark owner only, limited use by the trademark owner and partners, and expanded use by the trademark owner, partners and consumers.

Perhaps Canon seeks the .canon top-level domain simply to prevent the TLD's use in the generic sense as an identifier of ecclesiastical law or a body of accepted standards. Canon could register .canon and restrict its use only for simple corporate website addresses and for employee e-mail addresses, but, based on the press release alluding to "the convenience and effectiveness of its online communications," it appears Canon has bigger plans.

Canon could register .canon and make use of all these purposes and also allow the registration of .canon domain names by its authorized dealers, resellers and distributors of Canon's goods and services. Authorized dealers of Canon's consumer products, as well as resellers and distributors of its industrial and office products and services, could register domain names in the .canon TLD, which would give Canon greater control of the registration and use of .canon domain names and websites and also potentially provide consumers of Canon's goods and services with greater verification of the providers of said goods and services.

Going further, by registering the .canon TLD, Canon could, in addition to the purposes related to its partners, offer the possibility of registering .canon domain names to its consumers, particularly in relation to its digital camera business. Few practices involve the emotional attachment that many people feel in relation to the photographs they take with their cameras. Canon's registration of the .canon TLD could provide Canon's consumers with greater security and authentication for images held with a deep emotional attachment, as well as providing Canon with the ability to monitor the registration and use of .canon domain names.

All of this is conjecture, of course, but it is fun to think about. ICANN has often claimed that the introduction of new TLDs is intended to provide for greater innovation and choice in the Internet realm. As for innovation, few companies match Canon, at least as measured by having consistently finished within the top three in rankings of corporations receiving patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

EOI Scrapped: New TLDs On Course

Last Friday, ICANN concluded its 37th Meeting with a meeting of the ICANN Board, during which the Board scrapped the Expressions of Interest or "EOI" proposal. In reading through the transcript of the discussion, it is evident that some of the members of the Board harbored reservations about the time line for the EOI, which was to progress concurrently with the implementation of the New TLD Program.

Particularly in light of the fact that the EOI proposal was intended to move the New TLD Program forward, the title of the press release announcing the resolution to scrap the EOI is at least noteworthy: "ICANN Board Stays on Course for Launch of New gTLD Program," which avers, "ICANN will continue to concentrate effort on the resolution of remaining issues and the development of operational resources for launch of the program."

For trademark owners, the next development to keep an eye out for at this point is the release of the latest incarnation of the Draft Applicant Guidebook, which should be published prior to the next ICANN Meeting in Brussels in late June. The DAG should include the three elements referenced below in a previous post: Trademark Clearinghouse, Uniform Rapid Suspension Procedure and Post Dispute Delegation Resolution Procedure, all of which we will be discussing here in detail over the next few posts.

Presumably as a first step in the latest push for the New TLD Program, ICANN will host a webinar March 17th to discuss the implementation of the New TLD Program.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ICANN Meetings Beget Additional Acronyms: The URS and the UDRP

As I mentioned before, I attended remotely the presentation on "Trademark Protection in New gTLDs" at the ICANN Nairobi meeting on Monday. One of the trademark protection mechanisms for domain names registered in new TLDs discussed was the Uniform Rapid Suspension System or URS.

The URS is modeled after the UDRP. In fact, the elements to be proved are largely the same:
- The registered domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a mark in which the Complainant holds a valid registration issued by a jurisdiction that conducts a substantive examination of trademark applications prior to registration; and
- The Registrant has no legitimate right or interest to the domain name; and
- The domain was registered and is being used in bad faith.

One difference is the standard of proof. Since the URS is intended only for "clear cases of trademark abuse," the complainant must prove with "clear and convincing evidence" all three elements of the UDRP.

Another difference is available remedy. If the Examiner determines that the complainant has met its burden of proof, "the domain name shall be suspended for the balance of the registration period" and would resolve to "an informational web page provided by the URS Provider about the URS," meaning, ultimately, that the domain name registration would eventually expire, rather than transfer to the complainant as under the UDRP.

Although the discussion of the URS was primarily amenable, ICANN still has an open comment period for the URS draft proposal. And while the URS was developed to provide an inexpensive and efficient alternative to the UDRP, some meeting attendees referenced the fact that domain name dispute resolution providers have proposed expedited UDRP filings and how such "fast track" UDRPs might relate to the URS.

Of course, although the URS proposal has yet to gain full approval and expedited UDRP filings are now unavailable, there remains a convergence toward less expensive and more efficient domain name dispute resolution.

Next in line: RRDRP.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An End to Hand-Wringing?

ICANN Meeting number 37 is now in full swing in Nairobi, Kenya. There are a number of presentations throughout the week that should be of interest to readers of this blog. Although there were problems with the audio feed during the meeting I attended this morning, the opportunity to participate remotely is greater than ever.

The presentation I attended was titled, "Trademark Protection in New gTLDs" and the discussion was segmented according to three topics: Trademark Clearinghouse, Uniform Rapid Suspension Procedure and Post Dispute Delegation Resolution Procedure.

We will be discussing some of these issues throughout the week in depth, but the tone of the discussion itself bears mentioning before we get into the substance of the debate. I believe the moderator of the presentation, Mike Silber, referenced this twice, but it remains worth mentioning again that there is now significant consensus with regard to the issues related to trademark protection. As I have maintained for some time now, the implementation of new top-level domains is inevitable. The time for hand-wringing has concluded and trademark owners must plan now to deal with the introduction of new TLDs.