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THE INTERNET Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the non-profit organisation given the task of ensuring competition in the domain name registration business, is in danger of ceasing to function by next month.

An e-mail sent in June by Mike Roberts - Icann interim president and chief executive - to officials from IBM and MCI WorldCom, has come to light. It says: "Reality suggests that unless there is an immediate infusion of $500,000 to $1m, there won't be a functioning Icann by the end of August."

Icann representatives have met Thomas Kalil, the senior director for science and technology issues on the White House's National Economic Council, to ask for his aid in raising funds on their behalf.

Critics of Icann, which has made enemies in the industry and in Congress because of plans to charge extra fees for granting new domain names, and for holding a board meeting in private, point out that it's against US law for a government official to make solicitations for a private organisation.

AOL SUFFERED a setback in court last week when a judge threw out its case seeking to prevent AT&T using terms and slogans such as "you have mail", "instant messages" and "buddy list". The judge said that they were part of everyday generic Internet language and could not be trademarked. AOL plans to appeal.

Meanwhile, Microsoft upped the stakes in its tussle over instant messaging standards with AOL by saying it will publish the protocols of its MSN Messenger software for third parties to use. Microsoft is trying to win allies among Internet service providers and the Internet engineering task force which is responsible for drawing up standards.

AOL, which has a monopoly in the growing market with ICQ and its own Instant Messenger software, has refused to allow MSN users to communicate with its system, and turned down requests to make its specifications available before the task force sets protocols.

APPLE COMPUTER last week said that it had filed a lawsuit alleging that eMachines had illegally copied the design of Apple's iMac computer with its eOne PC, launched this month.

Stephen Dukker, eMachines chief executive, denied that the translucent blue PC was like Apple's distinctive iMac. However, Steve Jobs, Apple's interim chief executive, said: "There is an unlimited number of original designs that eMachines could have created for their computers, but instead they chose to copy Apple's designs. We've invested a lot of money and effort to create and market our award-winning computer designs, and we intend to protect them under the law.''