A Case of Reaping Where They Have Not Sown

If Vint Cerf can be considered the "father of the internet," then Dave Winer has just as fair a claim to the title "father of blogging." Winer is very unhappy that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is on the verge of giving somebody -- possibly Google -- the exclusive right to operate the .blog top-level domain:

But what if the name was created by an open source community, without the financial resources to mount a challenge? I have some standing there, because I played a role in establishing blogs. How does Google get the right to capture all the goodwill generated in the word blog? They are not the exclusive owner of it, as they are with the name Google. However they claim the right to become that owner, by paying $185K to ICANN. Nowhere in their proposal is an offer to pay money to the people who created the idea that they would take over. And what if the creators aren't willing to sell it to them?

Winer can't be blamed for being upset. However, it is not true that Google is claiming "the right to capture all of the goodwill generated in the word blog." Google will only capture as much value from the word blog as people are willing to give. Could be quite a bit, if Google marketers succeed in planting in the public's mind the belief that .blog is the place to find blogs. (I wonder if Google could lawfully give preferential search placement treatment to blogs merely because they are located in the .blog top-level domain?) Or it could be a little. After all, blogs reside in just about every top-level domain.

Winer is on to something though. The global part of the equation. Today global businesses are not able to register a single, globally applicable trademark. Trademarks are tied to the country where they are registered.

A new top-level domain from ICANN is the closest thing yet to a global trademark. It's not exactly like a registered trademark, it doesn't provide the legal remedies that a registered trademark provides, but it can function powerfully as a source identifier similar to a trademark, and it is exclusive (there's only one possible .blog domain, and nobody is going to be using it without the registry operator's authorization) in a way that trademarks are not.