It didn’t make headlines, but it is an interesting sign of the Internet times that, effective January 1, 2009, the United State Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) changed the International Classification of “domain name registration services” to Class 45 (defined below). The reason that the move is interesting is that it is just one more indication that the world of the Internet is becoming less and less about technology and more and more about law and policy.
Prior to January 1, 2009 “domain name registration services” used to be a Class 42 service. Class 42 services are “[s]cientific and technological services and research and design relating thereto; industrial analysis and research services; design and development of computer hardware and software.” When you think of the Internet as a global network of computers and the DNS as a technical function, it makes sense that “domain name registration services” would be appropriately placed in this class.
However, when you think of the Internet and the DNS as a playground for intellectual property attorneys and as a place where geo-politics plays out, as the USPTO’s move seems to indicate it does, that classification starts to make less sense. After all, it is Class 45 that covers “[l]egal services; security services for the protection of property and individuals; personal and social services rendered by others to meet the needs of individuals.”
So, all in all, what does this mean? Well, while some might take it a relatively small bureaucratic move, me, I’ll call it evidence that the tomorrow’s Rulers of the Root are just as likely (perhaps more?) to have a legal degree as they are to have a background in computer science. For lawyers (full disclosure, I am one) that is a good thing. For the Internet, I am not so sure.