internet websiteAre your online trademark enforcements efforts being thwarted by inaccurate or inaccessible Whois data? If so, make your voices heard!

Problems with the accuracy and completeness of the Whois global database of domain name registrants are probably not a new thing for your company. We have all been there. You obtain the Whois record for an infringing domain name just to find out it is either registered under a privacy/proxy service or contains blatantly false contact information. If it makes you feel any better, know that you are not alone. The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) reported that inaccurate Whois complaints accounted for over 60% of informal complaints filed with Registrars between June 2017 and June 2018. If you have experienced the frustration of encountering inaccurate Whois data, be sure to report it to ICANN via its Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form, which can be found here. All complaints are forwarded to the sponsoring registrar, who must take reasonable steps to investigate and correct the inaccurate data.

While I wish I had good news for you, your problems with the Whois database have likely only increased due to the additional restrictions ICANN has placed on the accessibility of Whois data in light of the recently enacted European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP). However, the International Trademark Association (INTA) has your back. Given anticounterfeiting and consumer protection are two of INTA’s policy priorities, it has set up a dedicated email box to track the problems companies are experiencing with this recent change to Whois to help its advocacy efforts for a more accessible Whois database. And, you don’t have to be a member of INTA to make a submission!

Submissions can be sent via email to WHOISchalleneges@inta.org and will be anonymized. They should include no more than one or two brief paragraphs describing the following:

  • the country, location, and/or jurisdiction of where the problem is occurring;
  • the nature of the problem (a procedure, a piece of evidence, or a venue); and
  • an anonymous description of the actors or people involved (provide industry and/or non-specific information about the actors involved).

We cannot expect changes to the Whois system without proof that change is necessary. So if you do not already do so, please start to report Whois inaccuracies or inaccessibility so that together we can make a difference in the fight for full access to accurate Whois data!

For additional information on the Whois system and the issues discussed in this post, please contact Caroline Chicoine.