Are Online Business Transactions Executed by Electronic Signatures Legally Binding?

By: Carl Carl, Corey Ciocchetti, Wes Barton & Nathan Christensen Most of us believe that we make contracts over the Internet all the time. We buy books and computers, arrange for hotels and planes, trade stocks, and apply for mortgages. But as recently as seven months ago that transaction was most likely not legally binding. This uncertainty led many practitioners, businesspeople, and consumers to question the efficacy of contracts executed by electronic signatures. Without a uniform standard, many jurisdictions ruled inconsistently, while other jurisdictions did not consider the issue. This disparate treatment threatened the legitimacy of online agreements and deprived both consumers and businesses of the certainty and predictability expected from well-developed markets. The law’s formalities evolved outside of the digital world, and the process of adapting them to it has proven to be more difficult than expected. In June of 2000, Congress attempted to solve this problem with the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign). Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0005

Deutsche Telekom and Voicestream Merger: Charting a New Regulatory Course

By: Aaron Futch, Yemi Giwa, Andrew Grimmig, Kisa Mlela & Amy Richardson On July 24, 2000, the German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG (Deutche Telekom) agreed to purchase the Bellvue, Washington based VoiceStream Wireless Corporation (VoiceStream) for over $50 billion. Although the merger may ultimately fall through, the response generated by the proposed merger indicates the future for deals between US and foreign-owned telecommunications companies. With the increasing globalization of the world’s telecommunications markets, the Deutche Telekom deal represents the first time that a company dominated by a foreign government has attempted to purchase an American corporation. The signatories of the Basic Telecommunications Agreement, an agreement among World Trade Organization (WTO) members to open their telecom markets to foreign competition, are closely watching the US response. The stance that the US government takes in reviewing this merger can be seen as a sign of things to come as the world’s single largest telecommunications market opens up to the world. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0004

Who’s Afraid of v.

By: Stephen Dirksen, Kyle Grimshaw, Michael Hostetler, Ian Jinkerson & Michael Kim On October 2, 2000, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard the appeal in the case of, Inc. v., Inc. This appeal revolves around the alleged infringement by of a one-click web-shopping system patented by The one-click system is among a series of recent controversial “business method” patents. According to some, business methods are legitimate inventions that deserve the protection of the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). According to others, business methods are unworthy of patent protection and may inhibit innovation in e-commerce. The outcome of this case has been widely anticipated by both sides of the business method patent debate as a signal that these patents will or will not be upheld by courts. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0003

An Interview With Michael Froomkin

By: Kathleen E. Fuller A. Michael Froomkin is an Administrative Law and Internet Law scholar from the University of Miami School of Law and a vigorous critic of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). He is the author of a controversial new law review article, Wrong Turn in Cyberspace: Using ICANN to Route Around the APA and the Constitution, 50 DUKE L.J. 17 (Oct. 2000), available at In his new article, Professor Froomkin argues that ICANN’s relationship with the Department of Commerce is illegal. We interviewed Professor Froomkin via e-mail about his new article and about other recent ICANN-related events, such as ICANN’s plan to assign new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0001

The Fate of Gene Patents Under the New Utility Guidelines

By: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recently finalized its patent utility guidelines. Promulgated by the PTO, the new guidelines will be used by patent examiners in determining whether a claimed invention should be awarded patent protection ;and will be used by patent applicants and attorneys who file patent applications. The guidelines focus primarily on the utility standards for gene and gene fragment patents, an issue that was featured in the PTO’s 1999 Revised Interim Utility Guidelines and has been the subject of considerable public debate. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0008

ICANN: The Debate Over Governing the Internet

By: Kathleen E. Fuller Since its creation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been the subject of criticism and controversy. ICANN is a private non-profit corporation that operates under contract with the US Department of Commerce. It was created at the request of the government for the purpose of privatizing the Domain Name System (DNS), the addressing system on which the Internet depends. The creation of ICANN in 1998–what some have called cyberspace’s own “constitutional moment” — represented a substantial shift in power to control the Internet from government to private industry. Today, ICANN is facing a virtual revolt. Domain name registrars outside the US are protesting bills sent by ICANN (which help finance approximately 1/3 of ICANN’s $5 million budget), claiming they want either better representation or the ability to break away from ICANN and set up their own networks.Domestic registrars who recently applied for new top-level domain names (and who submitted non-refundable $50,000 application fees) have threatened legal action, claiming that ICANN’s process for approving new domains is unfair. And recently, Professor Michael Froomkin of the University of Miami School of Law published a seminal law review article questioning the very legality of ICANN’s