Arrival of ‘dotmobi’ domain raises concerns

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New “dotmobi” internet domain names will go on general sale on Tuesday in an attempt to drive the use of mobile devices as platforms to surf the web.

More than 13,000 names have been registered in an initial period reserved for trademark holders as part of an initiative parts of the telecommunications industry believe will encourage web use on mobile phones and devices such as the BlackBerry.

But critics across a broad swath of business, the law and academe are railing against the proliferation of new domains, which they claim are costly and a cause of fraud.

A consortium that includes Microsoft, Nokia and Vodafone is promoting “dotmobi” but others in the technology industry have voiced concerns. A senior lawyer at Verizon Communications, the second-largest US telecommunications group, said there was no “particular business need” for “dotmobi” and the company had only registered verizon.mobi to prevent others taking it.

“What we would not want to happen is for this name to be an infringer’s paradise,” said Sarah Deutsch, associate general counsel for Verizon.

“A lot of the new domain names just compound the problem of trademark infringement and fraud.”

She added: “Most of the new domain names have been failures and the vast majority of valuable real estate still rests in ‘dotcom’.”

“Dotmobi” follows the launch of “doteu” domain names, which went on general sale to European companies and individuals in April. More than 2.1m names have been registered, exceeding expectations. But disputes over registrations have proved costly and time-consuming to some companies.

Simon Burgess, managing director of British Insurance, an insurance broker, said he had spent more than £50,000 (€74,000) buying a series of “doteu” names from so-called cyber-squatters, who register attractive names with the intention of selling them on at large profits. “You just have to buy them to protect your intellectual property,” he said.

Even some registrars – which sell names on behalf of different domains – are sceptical about the benefits of a new internet suffix.

Marcus Eggensperger, legal director at Lycos Europe, said: “As a registrar, we are lucky because we have new markets but, to be honest, for trademark owners it could be a problem to have to make defensive registrations.”

Neil Edwards, chief executive of Dotmobi, the registry for the domain, said the price of a “dotmobi” address had been made more expensive than “doteu” or “dotcom” to deter cybersquatters from speculating.

However, web developers said there was no technical benefit to using “dotmobi”, as websites could be designed to adapt to mobile phone screens.

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