Rami Olwan

All About CyberLaw, Copyright and Developing Countries

Resolving Domain Name Disputes in Developing Countries- The Jordanian Case

The rapid growth of the internet in recent years and the proliferation of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) have had a profound impact on the way humans communicate, conduct businesses, and sell their goods and services. These new technologies have transformed the business world by generating new commercial models and presenting the world economy with challenges and opportunities. The business potential of the internet and the culture of cyberspace have combined to create a rush to register domain names, and a new market place for companies to exploit their trademarks. However, while shared interests in similar trademarks peacefully co-existed in the trademark system, such a relationship is not viable in virtual space because every domain name is unique and only one entity is allowed to register the requested name. This circumstance has created the legal problem known as cybsersquatting – the practice of registering famous trademarks as a domain name then selling them to large companies at a very large profit.

In the early stages of the internet evolution, cybersquatting was a concept, not even imagined.  In its infancy, the internet was largely a military, research and education medium for the American Defence Department, and also a tool for academics – not a vehicle for commercial purposes. With the onset of commercial usage in early 1995, however, conflict quickly surfaced between the trademark system in real world and the domain name system in cyberspace.

The issue of internet governance has gained increasing prominence in recent years and one area of particular importance has been the creation of rules to bring about an effective and efficient domain name system.  While much of the regulatory focus has been on the operations of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the role of national governments in developing countries has sometimes been overlooked. The E-commerce Development Report of 2002, prepared by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) , recognizes the importance of policy decisions in relation to country code Top Level domains (ccTLDs) of developing countries. According to the report, developing countries should formulate policies which take into account relevant legal, cultural, economic and linguistic factors.

Although there have been many studies which consider ccTLDs registrations and domain name dispute policies and resolutions, there have been no such studies in developing countries, including Jordan.

 It is important for Jordan in particular – to create efficient policies and legal mechanisms for domain name registration and resolution of domain name disputes. Enacting efficient policies for domain name registration will have the effect of increasing citizen confidence in ccTLDs and assisting developing countries to become truly e-commerce enabled.

 Although there is an abundance of scholarly literature pertaining to domain names and the tension between this system and that of trademark registration, the subject of cybersquatting – has clearly not received adequate scholarly attention and consideration it needs. There has been no in-depth research conducted in this particular area in regard to developing countries. This primary cause for this is that the vast majority of the studies examine domain names from the standpoint of developed countries and not from those of developing countries.

The development of a national domain name system (DNS) infrastructure is an important means to enhance the online experience in developing countries, which serves as a valuable resource for communication, education, and business purposes. Developing countries cannot be important players in e-commerce and information technology without giving particular attention to their domain name spaces and their management.

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