Washington Law Review


Thomas R. Lee


"Cyberpirates" incorporating variations on famous trademarks in Internet domain names often attempt to insulate themselves from service of process by providing false and incomplete information in registration materials. Holders of prominent trademarks are often left without an effective remedy because of the logistical difficulty of identifying cyberpirates and personally serving a multitude of complaints in far-flung jurisdictions. This Article examines a potential solution to the problem, whereby the trademark holder files an in rem action against the Internet domain names themselves on the theory that domain names incorporating their famous trademarks violate the Lanham Act and are subject to cancellation and transfer to the trademark owner. Recently, however, a federal court dismissed one such in rem complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, citing statutory and constitutional concerns. This Article examines the propriety ofthe in rem solution to the problem ofcyberpiracy. After tracing the Supreme Court's treatment of in rem jurisdiction from Pennoyer v. Neff through Shaffer v. Heitner and to the present, the Article carefully examines the statutory and constitutional issues presented by this novel application of a longstanding procedural mechanism. Specifically, this Article examines the constitutionality of in rem jurisdiction after Shaffer and evaluates the question of where a domain name may be deemed to have its "situs" for jurisdictional purposes.

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