“First come, first served, so don’t come too late“, wrote Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, in 1616. “First come, first served” is a customary law proverb meaning that privileges being abolished, “everyone is free to go and grind his grain where he wants, but the miller is not free to serve the last before the first” (J.-L.-Alexandre Bouthors, Les Proverbes, dictons et maximes du droit rural traditionnel, A. Durand (Paris), 1858, n° 57, p. 120, translated from French). In an intellectual property context: “First come, first served, that is the only principle on which inventors should be treated” (G. G. M. Hardingham, « Lettre de Grande-Bretagne », La propriété industrielle, 1892, No. 9, p. 128, translated from French).
Indeed, the rule constitutes one of the pillars (but not the only one) of intellectual property law. The law ratifies a rule of common sense by conferring an exclusive right on the first creator of a work, an invention, or a trademark. Common sense also dictates that no exclusive right be granted to creations devoid of originality (copyright), novelty (patent law), or distinctiveness (trademark law).
What about creating a generic top-level domain? The question arises for the alternative (non-DNS) top-level domain (TLD) .WALLET, which is currently the subject of a dispute between Unstoppable Domains (first entrant) and Handshake (second entrant). The word “wallet”, given its descriptiveness (since it is intended to be used in connection with crypto-financial services), cannot give rise to any trademark rights. The impossibility of conferring an intellectual property right should, in principle, work in favor of freedom of trade and, consequently, allow the coexistence of two or more .WALLET TLDs. However, such a situation is not necessarily desirable for the operators, holders of intellectual property rights, or authorities. It is, therefore, with some satisfaction that one must welcome a recent announcement from Unstoppable Domains. On October 18, 2022, this company, which has created several alternative extensions, including .COIN and .WALLET, announced that it was waiving .COIN because it had noticed that a competitor, Emercoin, had previously created a .COIN (unstoppabledomains.com, 2022-10-18). Thus, Unstoppable Domains imposes on itself the doctrine of first come, first served. However, giving up .COIN is not about being chivalrous towards Emercoin. Indeed, the value of .WALLET could well exceed that of .COIN immeasurably (iptwins.com, 2022-09-07). The waiver of .COIN is purely strategic. Indeed, before the judge as before its opponent (Handshake), Unstoppable Domains cannot support the theory of monopoly (each top-level domain is unique) and simultaneously keep its .COIN since an alternative registry (Emercoin) had previously created a .COIN. In other words, by giving up .COIN, Unstoppable Domains sends a solid message to Handshake and the judge. The bet is risky, but it also tells the value at which Unstoppable DomainBlockchain, Domain Names, Competition, First Come First Served, Unstoppable Domains, Handshake, Wallet, Coin, Emercoin, Web 3s estimates the .WALLET!