Apparently wildcard DNS is a trademark violation now.
August 24, 2001 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Apparently wildcard DNS is a trademark violation now. Yahoo is suing the owner of the domain, because the latter uses wildcard DNS. This means that if you type "" (or "", for that matter) in your browser, you get taken to's main site. Yahoo is suing because that it could cause the public to mistakenly believe that the sex site "is connected with, sponsored by, or approved in some way by Yahoo," and therefore constitutes trademark infringement.
posted by RylandDotNet (19 comments total)

I agree.
posted by perplexed at 9:40 PM on August 24, 2001

What isn't readily mentioned is that Yahoo! has withdrawn its suit/complaint after a ZDNet editor told them how stupid it was. Has this always been a characteristic of the press and big business? That is, to accuse the little guy (even if he's an asshole in this case), eat your words, and point fingers at your competitors?
posted by bloggboy at 9:41 PM on August 24, 2001

Wow! This is just PAINFULLY stupid!
posted by revbrian at 9:46 PM on August 24, 2001

Allow me to disagree here. I do not think this is stupid. "Yahoo" is their trademark, and they are allowed to protect it. Is it that difficult to block from wildcarding if the lawful trademark holder requests it? I think not.
posted by crawl at 10:31 PM on August 24, 2001

point taken, but the real question is whether the yahoo trademark is diluted in any way by subdomains. the article is sparse, but it appears that never intended to deceive anyone, they merely use wildcard dns just like Matt does with this site as I displayed. every freakin' company in the world would be able to sue yahoo was arguing a hypothetical stance that was untenable. the professional services division of cisco may di$agree, but overall, the cure is worse than the disease.
posted by machaus at 10:46 PM on August 24, 2001


apparently, regarding issues of trademark, it largely matters only if is selling something. read on through the page -- eventually, it discusses third-level domain trademark cases (in the paper, the case of

as to your question of whether it would be difficult to block wildcarding -- i'm going to venture a guess, not being a dns/bind guru here -- i will say that yes, it would be quite difficult. how do the dns servers know what is a trademark and what is not? will some database have to be implemented? if so, the solution becomes complicated by several orders of magnitude.
posted by moz at 10:48 PM on August 24, 2001

yahoo also happens to be a common noun (common in the grammatical sense if not in usage), I'm pretty sure there's some latitude granted in cases where a trademark consists of a word that can be readily construed as referring to something other than the trademark holder..?

[wave] first post! lame, my first metafi link is to
posted by juv3nal at 11:10 PM on August 24, 2001

I'm pretty sure there's some latitude granted in cases where a trademark consists of a word that can be readily construed as referring to something other than the trademark holder..?

If your trademark is too descriptive of the product, then it may be weak and you may have difficulty protecting it. That's not quite the same thing.

One of the easiest ways to create a non-descriptive trademark is to apply a common word to something completely different from what it normally means, which is the reason we have computers named for fruit, scooters named for things you shave with, and watches named for the remains of dead animals you find in really old rocks.
posted by kindall at 11:31 PM on August 24, 2001

From this report, it becomes clear that Yahoo had thought that the domain was explicitly set up; they didn't know about generic domains. Once they learned about that they withdrew the threat. Which doesn't excuse them.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:13 AM on August 25, 2001


It wouldn't be hard at all to block certan domains. All the people would have to do would be to add a new entry, along with any other entries they have, and point that to nothing.

In a DNS zone file you can have something like this (not correct syntax):

A *

So, * would point to the webserver, would point to the mail server, and would point to nothing.
posted by delmoi at 1:20 AM on August 25, 2001

posted by Hackworth at 1:23 AM on August 25, 2001

Dammit, I meant ThisReallyFuckingSucks
posted by Hackworth at 1:24 AM on August 25, 2001

So Yahoo have been guily of stupidity. Let's all laugh at them for this cock-up and move on.

I don't think blocking trademarks at the DNS level is at all feasible. Every single domain would have to explicitly block every single possible trademark. If it was the case that had set up explicitly to sell services, then yahoo would have had a point.
posted by salmacis at 2:32 AM on August 25, 2001

Matt goes to jail.
posted by kchristidis at 4:02 AM on August 25, 2001

What I find interesting about this, as a corporate lawyer, is the apparent total discount between Yahoo's legal department and/or law firms and the people in Yahoo who have even the slightest knowledge about how the Internet works. Someone, an absolutely ludricous lawsuit got filed in Yahoo's name without anyone who knows anything about the Internet being consulted or signing off, or having the guts to say, "Hey, guys, let's wait a minute..."

(This is assuming that it was not a fully constructed third-level domain, i.e. with discreet content, etc., nor that they had tried to market "Yahoo.Sex.Com".)
posted by MattD at 6:17 AM on August 25, 2001

MattD, they didn't file a lawsuit. What they did was to send a "cease and desist" letter. Then they apologized and indicated that it had been a misunderstanding.

Delmoi, what you suggest would be easy if "Yahoo" were the only trademark you were trying to cover in this way. But when you also toss in "Coke" and "Chevrolet" and "Nike" and... ...then the problem grows out of control. To really do it right you'd have to have a direct line to the PTO's list of current trademarks and update your list in near real time as new trademarks were filed. It's not practical to do that.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:14 AM on August 25, 2001


that solves one problem, specifically, with i'm more interested in the possibility that many domains could set up their DNS such that resolves to, which would be much more difficult for yahoo to try to address (if they were of a mind to).
posted by moz at 7:16 AM on August 25, 2001

Oh no. I'm going to be sued now. If you send mail to my house and put 'Yahoo' as the name, it will get here! It's about time a corporation managed to sue every household in the country.
posted by wackybrit at 8:09 PM on August 25, 2001

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