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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Domain names, particularly generic domain names such as men.com, loan.com, beauty.com, cool.com, and car.com, have become the new valuable intellectual property right in recent years, commanding high monetary value in the marketplace. How should the acquisition costs of such domain names be treated under the current tax regime for intellectual property? Addressing this complex question requires an examination of the character of domain names through numerous doctrines ranging from traditional intellectual property right to government contract. In addition, the question dictates a critique of whether domain names are similar to existing rights to which the current intellectual property tax regime can be applied. The nature of domain names as created through the domain name assigning system, designed to be globally unique and influenced by the way in which Internet users search for products or services, has a profound impact on the search for an appropriate tax regime for domain name acquisitions that would serve to stimulate the growth of online commerce. This Article proposes that domain names that function as source identifiers should be treated under the tax regime applicable to trademarks. Generic domain names, however, possess inherent goodwill that dictates different treatment.

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