Re: The Path URN Specification - trademarks

Paul Hoffman (
Tue, 28 Mar 1995 16:19:28 -0700

Message-Id: <v02110105ab9e469a09d7@[]>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 1995 16:19:28 -0700
To: (Michael Shapiro)
From: (Paul Hoffman)
Subject: Re: The Path URN Specification - trademarks
Cc: (John Curran),,

>John Curran wrote:
>|The existing set of DNS domains are allocated based on policies which
>|are currently undergoing legal scrutiny with respect to the trademark
>|infringement.  We need to consider before recommending the establishment
>|of a second name space which will certainly garner similiar actions...
>This is an issue I was unaware of. Can you elaborate on these legal
>issues?  Would there be trouble if someone used "kleenex" in the name
>of a document? (e.g. /A/B/C/mymail/kleenex/msg.1)  Is this only a
>problem for DNS names? Is this an objection to even considering the
>path scheme? Or is this a problem for any naming scheme that allowed
>trademarked words to appear as part of the name. And even so, is this
>enough of a reason to disallow such a naming scheme? When does trademark
>infringement occur?

It is not the allocation of names that brings potential trademark
infringement: its the use of them. Thus, the .com Gods can allocate me
"" with impunity; if I use it in public, I may have to chat
with some McLawyers. The McLawyers might come after me for trademark
infringement and, if they feel so enthused, go after the folks who "let" me
use the name, just in case that other party has deep pockets. This shotgun
approach to finding fault is common in the US and UK legal systems. For
this reason, the domain name givers are looking at many legal issues right

As I understand it, nothing in the path URN spec registers any names that
not already given in the DNS. If that is correct, there is nothing to worry
about with respect to trademarks and the spec. There *is* something for
someone publishing URNs to worry about with all the URN specs so far,
namely that a name a user chooses might infringe on someone's trademark.

But the same issues also apply to today's URLs. For example, one could make
an argument that <>, if it became a
popular URL that confused some people about its origin, could be considered
an infringement by Apple. There dozens of similar scenarios.

Remember that trademark laws differ in every country. I believe that this
is well beyond what we need to consider in the URI WG. As long as none of
the URN or URL schemes allocate names in and of themselves, there is
nothing to worry about.

--Paul Hoffman
--Proper Publishing