A domain name is a mnemonic device (something that's easy to remember, i.e., copyrights-attorney.com) that replaces the number string used to identify an internet protocol computer address. It identifies a computer's electronic location on the internet.
Domain names are issued by companies identified as registrars by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is a non-profit corporation formed in 1998 to manage the domain name system. Prior to1998, Network Solutions, Inc.. ("NSI") had the exclusive monopoly to issue domain names. In 998, the Department of Commerce issued a "white paper" that, among other things, called for the privatization of domain name registration and the creation of ICANN.
If the exact spelling of the proposed domain name is available, the domain name is permitted to be registered. This means that if you register "my-site.com", someone else can register "my_site.com" or "mysite.com". Domain names are not case sensitive so that if you register "My-Site.com" it is the equivalent of "my-site.com" and someone else cannot have that domain name.
Unlike trademarks, a domain name does not have to be identified with any particular type of goods or services. when it is registered This is different from trademarks where the mark is limited to a particular class of goods or services. Thus, "Dove" soap and "Dove" ice cream can be granted trademarks by the United States Patent & Trademark Office. The assumption is that not too many people are going to confuse soap and ice cream (although there are some who might try to eat Dove soap if it were covered in Dove chocolate). The fact that only one name can be issued for each domain means that once a name is issued, no one else in the world can have that domain name. As expected, this has caused problems. See "Resolution of Domain Name Disputes" in this website.
If you start a company and want to keep your competition from having a domain name similar to yours, you can register your company name and every variant (hyphenated, underline as a break, extra words added on) you can think of. Then do the same thing for ".org" and ".net". You might be going to far to register the ".edu" names; and you can't get ".gov" or ".mil" for obvious reasons. Finally, some lawyers recommend you misspell your name and register that. In fact, some people lament that there is no program out there that would take your domain name and figure out the most likely ways it will be misspelled. Sort of like checking out what the kids in the schoolyard will do with the name you want to name your daughter before you actually make a mistake.
What would this save you? Payne-Webber is fighting with a porn site named "Pain-Webber". If they'd registered variations of their name, they wouldn't be in court. And don't ever go to "whitehouse.com" when you want to see what the president is up to. He's at "whitehouse.gov".
As far as registering "business.com" or "auto.com" or some other name that will make you millions, forget it. 98% of Webster's is already gone. But there will always be creative names out there. How do you think they came up with Xerox, Kodak, Exxon and a host of others. Somebody has to think of them. Just like someone has to come up with new hubcaps every year, which has to be the most difficult job there is (not more than 16" wide and 2" inches deep, please, and restricted to circular designs only).
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