Companies with internationally-recognized brand names can protect their property and reputation on-line by detecting infringement of rights to their domain name, or Internet address name, John Rawls, partner in Jones Day Reavis & Pogue’s intellectual property practice in Los Angeles, told GlobalFax.

          Mr. Rawls, who consults for companies nationwide on trademark and domain name enforcement, recently spoke at the World Trade Center Atlanta.

          He suggested that companies first detect domain name infringement by visiting to determine whether their domain names could be confused with similar registered names.

He then suggested that companies familiarize themselves with exactly what constitutes an infringement and what does not and to learn how to keep stringent records of domain name rights by seeking legal counsel on these matters.

“Cybersquatters,” or individuals who copy or slightly alter the domain name of a famous company to draw Internet users to their own Web sites, can misdirect customers to competitors, dilute brand names or associate a brand with “unsavory” activity, he warned.

          A company’s domain names on the Internet can be even more difficult to protect than traditional copyrights, especially when a company has worldwide brand recognition, he said.

          “As the Internet becomes more and more widespread globally, companies may not even be aware of an infringement on their domain name rights,” he said.

          Mr. Rawls noted that there are 9.4 million “.com” domain names registered on the Internet to date. Country code domains, like “.uk” or .”ru,” exist for 239 countries, and each country has its own registrar. Some 150 registrars worldwide are authorized to register “.com,” “.org” and “.net” domain names. So detecting infringement and protecting a domain name can become extremely difficult, he said.

Infringement of domain name rights can result in fines of up to $100,000 per infringing name used, and defendants typically must abandon the name, he said. Sometimes foreign litigation is the only means of stopping foreign-based infringers, he added.

Contact Jones Day’s litigation group in Atlanta at (404) 581-8119.