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In today's world of e-commerce, protection of a company's brand on the Internet is of paramount importance in its overall intellectual property strategy. A company's brick-and-mortar and online presence and reputation can be harmed by the existence of a third-party's unauthorized use of its brand online or by missing its chance to claim a once in a lifetime spot in the domain name system.

Complicating efforts to grow and police a brand online is the intricate and specialized regulation of the domain name system and developments, which can move at lightning speed. For instance, when .com top level domain names (TLDs) were first popularized there was a land grab resulting in many legal issues for brand owners who soon discovered that their trademarks had been "squatted" upon. As the Internet matured and contextual click-through advertisements were monetized, brand owners next faced more subtle infringement by use of their trademarks as a part of a domain name (i.e., cocacolabottles.com).

Now, with ICANN's introduction of the new gTLD system the risks to brand owners by an unlimited number of TLDs and domain names registered within those TLDs that might be identical or similar to the brand owners' trademark is likely to be exponentially worse than with the current domain name system. Policies to protect brand owners are being developed, such as a Trademarks Clearinghouse and a Uniform Rapid Suspension system for new gTLDs. However, it is clear that these protections will require proactive steps by brand owners that they should be monitoring and preparing for now. Our attorneys keep up with the latest cutting-edge domain name developments as members of ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC), the High Security Top Level Domain Name Working Group, and through the Internet law committees of the International Trademark Association (INTA) and the American Bar Association (ABA).

To assist our clients, we can provide internet monitoring services using software and services to watch for trademark infringement online, counterfeit and phishing activities, and to monitor for cybersquatting and typosquatting. If infringing activities are found, our lawyers are experienced at issuing demand letters and take-down notices, as well as litigating trademark infringement, counterfeit, and cybersquatting on an international basis. The Internet Domain Name Group of Nelson Mullins also provides a one stop shop for strategic counseling concerning developing e-Commerce, website development, and protecting your brand online, including advice related to the new gTLD roll out and developing, implementing and submitting an application to become a new gTLD registry. For additional information, please contact our Internet Domain Name Group Leader, John C. McElwaine, at (202) 545-2939 or john.mcelwaine@nelsonmullins.com.