WASHINGTON – The company that manages the new “dot-info” Internet domain said on Wednesday it would tighten up registration rules as it prepared to challenge the validity of one out of every five names registered since the summer.
Domain manager Afilias, whose dot-info Internet suffix joined dot-com, dot-net and other established “top level” domains this fall, said it would modify its rules to ensure that disputed domains could only be awarded to legitimate trademark holders.
Thousands of applicants abused a preregistration process for trademark holders this summer in order to grab generic names like “finance.info” before they were made available to the public.
Afilias said it would require other challengers to produce proof that they owned a valid trademark, in order to prevent one dishonest applicant from taking a domain name from another.
The move comes as Afilias plans to file a “bulk challenge” of 10,000 of the 50,000 names submitted so far, according to Afilias Chief Marketing Officer Roland LaPlante.
Afilias will also allow domain name retailers to fix any errors in application forms before the bulk challenge period and allow domain name holders who did not mean to file during the preregistration period to withdraw their applications.
At least one batch of names filed in the preregistration period was due to an error by the retailer.
Afilias allowed trademark holders an opportunity to preregister names like “disney.info” when it rolled out its domain this summer.
But it soon became apparent that thousands of applicants had abused the process, using questionable trademark claims to register generic terms like “sports.info.”
Afilias said early in the fall that it would allow legitimate trademark holders to challenge the registrations before the company itself mounted a “bulk challenge” of remaining suspect names.
The rule change will avoid a scenario in which one fraudulent claimant could win a generic name like “computer.info” from another fraudulent claimant, said Robert Connor, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Connor said Afilias should also give priority to applicants who played by the rules and waited to apply for a domain name until the preregistration period was over.
Roughly 700 challenges have been filed so far, LaPlante said. Most cases listed on the website of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which is hearing the disputes, show that the challengers have won their cases and had domains such as “google.info” and “portfolio.info” transferred to them.
The challenge period will remain open until Dec. 26, LaPlante said, at which point Afilias will file its challenge.