David Goldstein - White House Seeks IP Protection Through Curbing Abusive Domain Registrations


    The White House in the last weeks of the Obama administration released a Strategic Plan that looked at ways of protecting intellectual property, with one of the means suggested being to curb abusive domain name registrations.

    Protecting intellectual property (IP) is a huge problem for brand owners, and a growing one, with a lot of time and money spent to protect branded goods, copyrighted material, patented inventions and trade secrets.

    The International Chamber of Commerce in 2008 predicted the worldwide market for counterfeit and pirated products alone would be $1.77 trillion in 2015, and growing at rate of 22% per year.

    To address this growing problem, the White House released in December its “FY 2017-2019 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement”.

    While domain names make up only a small part of the problem, the Strategic Plan notes how registrants abusing IP often move their registrations from one TLD to another with entities engaging “in online counterfeit sales, the unlawful exploitation of copyrighted materials, and other large-scale infringing activity [and] may engage in a combination of ‘domain name hopping’ and ‘venue shopping’ for perceived domain name safe havens. These tactics have been reported within both the gTLD and ccTLD domain name environments.” But while registrations in gTLDs outnumber ccTLDs by more than 2-1, “the frequency of bad faith ccTLD sites appear to be disproportionate in nature and worthy of further research and analysis.”

    One of the worst global organised crime rings registered domain names in 22 different TLDs in connection with the operation of approximately 10,000 websites, which in turn were hosted in 18 countries around the world, including Canada, Hong Kong, Romania, and the United Arab Emirates.

    To counter the problem, the report identifies a best practice model as adopted by Donuts and Radix in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as having merit. The model works to promote a safe and secure domain name system through a “trusted notifier” system established as part of collaborative efforts to mitigate blatant and pervasive illegal online activity in violation of platform terms of service.

    Looking to the future, a report “action” is to continue to assess the problem of abusive domain name registrations and look at appropriate opportunities to work with stakeholders to curb criminal activity.