• Mohammed Al Ramahi

Student thesis: Phd


The thesis takes as its central object and problematic the contentious status of domain names in global and domestic legal systems. It considers the manner in which advances in technology have blurred the legal rights between domain names and the existing laws of trademark, contract, copyright and property. As it stands, domain names are presented as a secondary right attached to other legal rights such as trademark or contract law, rather than as a new form, or species, of intellectual property. And yet, domain names represent a valuable, distinct and scarce commodity, which, in so far as they are capable of exclusive and excludable use, control and "ownership", exhibit regularities common to forms of property. This thesis seeks to justify the application of legal frameworks with respect to domain name registration and use to prepare the way for a discussion of the highly qualified recognition of domain names as legal property in United States courts and, to some extent, by arbitral tribunals acting under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN mandated Uniform Dispute Resolution Mechanism. By means of a detailed exploration of the legal and practical challenges accompanying the meteoric rise of Internet technology and commerce, the thesis intends to clarify the fundamental reasons for some of the current controversies. The thesis proceeds, in a first step, to identify several "gaps" in the current framework of domain name regulation, drawing the readers' attention to the, arguably, flawed treatment of the legal issue surrounding domain name use, control and ownership by courts and tribunals against the background of the accelerating monetisation and commoditisation of domain names. In capsule, this thesis aims to conduct a review into existing scholarship and case law on trademarks and domain names, in addition to contract and property law. It focuses on the associated legal frameworks for each, supported by cases that demonstrate their legal standing as a newly emergent property-based right. Moreover, the thesis sets these reflections against a broader discussion of doctrinal developments in the area of trademark law, the emerging role of ICANN as a custodian of the technical domain name allocation functions; the origins and theory behind the concept of property as distinct from the law of contract and, finally, the relevance of property rights to the legal standing of domain names. The thesis concludes by arguing that domain names should be treated as expressions of contract and property law, and that the relationship between domain names and trademark law be critically assessed and not confused. Further, it is argued that courts should take account of this duality towards the development of a revised framework for the regulation and adjudication of domain name assignment and use. A movement in this direction would stabilise expectations around the rights owed to, and by, domain name "owners", alleviating the uncertainty that remains as to their status under law, while reducing the scope for dispute. By taking these issues one by one, this thesis aspires to make a small but important critical contribution to the intellectual and political debate on the future development and enforcement of domain name law.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Griffiths (Supervisor) & Hazel Carty (Supervisor)


  • UK
  • USA
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Ownership
  • Internet Domain Name
  • Cyber Property

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