Making Her Mark (And Protecting Yours)

From Switzerland to Pennsylvania, Dina Leytes talks IP law

Published in 2015 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Magazine

Last December, intellectual property lawyer Dina Leytes traveled to Geneva for a workshop on case trends involving the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

“It’s led by luminaries in the domain name field, who highlighted and analyzed some of the most interesting domain name decisions in the past few years,” she says. “And, of course, I got my fill of cheese and chocolate.”

The trip brought her back to her old stomping grounds. After graduating from law school in 2006, she spent a year in the city working on the legal staff at the World Intellectual Property Organization. “Going to work at WIPO was a really wonderful opportunity,” she says. “I probably couldn’t have guessed how pivotal it would be in my career—although I suspected it. It really gave me unique expertise at the intersection of trademark and Internet law.”

Leytes now leverages that expertise as one of only two attorneys in Pennsylvania—and one of just 114 in the U.S.—appointed by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center to serve as a neutral panelist to decide domain name disputes. Cases can involve parties with confusingly similar domain names, or instances where one party claims the other registered a domain name in bad faith or has no rights to it. She takes on two disputes per month, reviews the facts, and makes her decisions within two weeks.

Leytes says the number of disputes may increase as hundreds of new generic top-level domains go live in 2015, breaking away from the commonly used .com and .org to include branded domains such as .google and .nike, as well as common words like .app and .book.

Domain name matters are also a big part of Leytes’ day-to-day practice at Griesing Law in Philadelphia, where she chairs the intellectual property and new media group, and works to protect the businesses of clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to up-and-coming entrepreneurs and nonprofits.

“Recently we’ve had a number of clients come to us who neglected … to do a trademark clearance before they launched their business,” says Leytes. “Now several years in, as they gain more momentum, they may receive a demand letter stating that they are infringing on a third party’s trademark. They might have to rebrand or engage in protracted negotiations because there wasn’t sufficient attention to this issue at the outset.”

Another frequent issue involves the illegal use of clients’ online content. “A lot of Internet users still assume that anything they find online is theirs for the taking with a right click of the mouse,” says Leytes. They ignore the terms and privacy policies for websites, some of which Leytes drafted. “I sometimes joke that I’m one of the most highly published and least-read authors,” she says.

Leytes also advises colleges and universities that want to know when they can use online content for online learning without seeking permission from the owner. “Specifically,” she says, “they’re interested in whether there’s a fair-use defense that might apply.”

Generally, fair use entails a small portion of the work, for noncommercial use, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the copyrighted material’s market.

“But in practice, the fair-use defense is notoriously unreliable,” Leytes says, explaining that courts can weigh the four factors in whatever way they want. “Having the four-factor test is just probably three factors too many.”

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