Professional Issues in Information Technology
trade marks (or intellectual property rights more generally) or where such
laws are not effectively enforced will face trade sanctions. It is hoped that this
will stamp out the flagrant piracy that exists at present.
Even where a trade mark is not registered, action can be taken in the civil
courts against products that imitate the appearance or ‘get up’ of an existing
product. This is known as the tort of ‘passing off’. It is, however, usually
better to register the trade mark than to rely on protection under civil law,
because the legal action involved in defending it will be much more straight-
forward.
Trade marks are an effective way of protecting retail package software from
piracy. Given that pirated software can be distributed over the internet with
no physical packaging, it is desirable to display the trade mark prominently
when the software is loaded, as well as displaying it on the packaging.
DOMAIN NAMES
Internet domain names are ultimately managed by the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is an internationally
organized, non-profit making corporation. Its main responsibility is ensur-
ing the ‘universal resolvability’ of internet addresses; that is, ensuring that
the same domain name will always lead to the same internet location
wherever it is used from and whatever the circumstances. In practice, ICANN
delegates the responsibility for assigning individual domain names to other
bodies, subject to strict rules.
Domain names were originally meant to be used just as a means of simpli-
fying the process of connecting one computer to another over the internet.
However, because they are easy to remember, they have come to be used as a
way of identifying businesses. Indeed, they are frequently used in advertis-
ing. Conversely, it is not surprising that companies should want to use their
trade marks or their company names as their internet domain names.
The potential for conflict between trade marks and domain names is
inherent in the two systems. Trade marks are registered with public authori-
ties on a national or regional basis. The owner of the trade mark acquires
rights over the use of the trade mark in a specific country or region. Identical
trade marks may be owned by different persons in respect of different
categories of product. Domain names are usually allocated by a non-
governmental organization and are globally unique; they are normally
allocated on a first come, first served basis. This means that if different
companies own identical trade marks for different categories of product or
for different geographical areas, only one of them can have the trade mark as
domain name, and that will be the first to apply.
The inconsistencies between the two different systems of registration has
made it possible for people to register, as their own domain names, trade
marks belonging to other companies. This is sometimes known as cyber
squatting. They then offer to sell these domain names to the owner of the trade
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