Distinguishing Marks

Summer 2018

The GDPR and WHOIS Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the organisation responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of numerous internet databases relating to domain name registrations, has issued a “proposed interim model” regarding how personal information is to be stored and what data should be open and publicly available on WHOIS databases. WHOIS data is incredibly useful for intellectual property holders and their professional representatives. This data is used in conducting trade mark enforcement investigations, for sending cease and desist letters, for communicating with the registrants, for preparing and prosecuting domain name disputes/complaints, and in general to protect the interests of intellectual property owners, of consumers as well as law enforcement authorities in order to try to keep the Internet safe from security breaches and other nefarious/criminal behaviour. However, under the ICANN’s currently proposed model, public access to the WHOIS data will be severely restricted. If adopted, such a restriction is likely to impact the interests of the intellectual property owners, of consumers, as well as the safety of the internet.

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