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FICORA investigating large cybersquatting case involving 886 .FI domains

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, operator of the Finnish ccTLD domain .FI, is examining close to one thousand deliberately misspelled Finnish domain names of popular Finland based companies and internet services. A total of 886 .FI ccTLD domains are currently being closely examined. All of the domains in question were registered at a single Maltese based domain registrar but listed under a Finnish holder, according to a press release by FICORA.

FICORA has contacted both the Finnish domain name registrant and the Maltese registrar for more information. The investigation is on-going. Meanwhile, the Maltese registrar’s capabilities to process registrations of new .FI domain names has been denied until further notice.

.FI ccTLD Domains

This case is extremely unique, because you don’t often see the actual registry operator get involved in these types of situations. There must of been a tremendous amount of pressure and/or legal threats being made towards the operators of the small ccTLD, for them to take such an aggressive approach.

As of this writing, there are 295,308 .FI domain names registered, according to the official .FI registry website. There are 323 active domain registrars that are currently accredited by FICORA, in other words licensed to be able to resell direct to consumers. These domain registrars allow users from around the world to register .FI domains.

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CitizenHawk rolls out a sophisticated cloud-based online brand protection platform

June 6th, 2012 Comments off

California based CitizenHawk, a global provider of online brand protection and enforcement services, has announced the launch of a powerful online brand protection tool called “HawkDiscovery” that enables users to search the entire web and detect use of trademarked terms and phrases, helping uncover instances of brand abuse ranging from counterfeiting to domain name abuse and cybersquatting.

HawkDiscovery is a cloud-based technology platform that lets users monitor content on specific websites and produces alerts notifying them of new activity. HawkDiscovery features a fully integrated workflow and case management system that acts as a kind of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for brand protection. The system lets users analyze and assess particular instances of online infringement, determine appropriate responses, and manage remediation activities from initial detection through final resolution – with every action tracked, recorded and shared with appropriate personnel.

CitizenHawk HawkDiscovery

David Duckwitz, CitizenHawk’s president and chief executive said:

 ”Companies realize their brands are most precious corporate assets, and they invest considerable time and money promoting them to consumers, investors and others. Unfortunately, well known and popular brands are particularly attractive to typosquatters and others seeking to exploit them on the Internet. Marketing, legal, compliance and IT professionals can now fight back with cost effective tools that not only can uncover such abuse, but effectively respond to it.”

CitizenHawk offers various brand protection, corporate domain management and global domain recovery services according to their website:

HawkTypos — a service that can generate literally thousands of domain-name permutations, confirm whether such domains are registered, and identify common ownership, notwithstanding efforts to obfuscate such ownership via asset shielding or inexpensive privacy services.

HawkUDRP — a powerful tool for pursuing – and winning – UDRPs (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy). CitizenHawk is the world leader in filing UDRPs, winning 99 percent of our cases and recovering more than 20,000 domains on behalf of our clients. We have taken advantage of our knowledge and experience to create an automated system that enables clients to effectively collect evidence, generate the necessary documentation and complete the entire domain recovery process quickly and cost effectively.

About CitizenHawk

CitizenHawk is a closely held, venture capital-backed company. Primary investors of the company include Maveron LLC, a prominent VC firm co-founded by Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz. Other noteworthy investors include Gary Kremen, founder of Match.com, and Mark Vadon, founder and chairman of BlueNile.com.

The company is a global provider of online brand protection and enforcement services. CitizenHawk helps clients address the challenges associated with protecting brand assets and other intellectual property in today’s digital economy. CitizenHawk’s robust technology, knowledgeable and experienced professional staff, incomparable case management tools and flexible approach to client relationships have attracted some of the world’s most prominent brands.

According to the company, approximately 1 in 4 companies on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 list are CitizenHawk clients. Some of the clients they list on their website include Apple, Priceline, Finishline, Cricket Communications, Macy’s, Staples, Morningstar, Travelocity, The Gap, ProFlowers, Lands End, Omaha Steaks, Pacsun, Overstock and LegalZoom.

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FaceBook files TypoSquatter Lawsuit Based on Domains

July 28th, 2011 Comments off

Apparently Facebook has not only continued their practice of filing disputes for domains names it saw infringing on its trademarks but now also has changed gears and filed a suit on July 22nd against more than 100 parties claiming Cybersquatting, Trademark infringement, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Breach of Contract and Tortious Interference . The filing with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (PDF) lists 104 different domains with the majority of names containing the term “facebook” in some variation (i.e. facebooki.com) but also lists the domains (14) that the typo-domains are/were redirected to (i.e. 1939.com which according to a notice posted on the site was a redirect service at one point and SocialRewardCenter.com).

The listed defendants are:

  • Cyber2Media, Inc.
  • Daniel Negari
  • Cleanser Products
  • Counter Balance Enterprises Ltd.
  • FB Promotions/Freebie Promos
  • Mackrooner Ltd. Inc.
  • Newgate Services Ltd.
  • Pioneer Enterprises Ltd.
  • Rabbit Gogo Media LLC
  • SMTM Enterprises Ltd.
  • YourTick
  • Zilt
  • Jacob Daniels
  • Jerry Hui
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Eric Jordan
  • Karrie-Lee Karreman
  • June Kimchi
  • Tim Meyers
  • Ankit Pandey
  • S. Pace
  • Elise Petri
  • Mark Risi
  • John Souza
  • Michael Suggs
  • and John/Jane Does 1-119

This topic was also covered by Elliot Silver and Bill Hartzer. Hat tip to Domain Trader.


3M Sues Registrars, Webhosts and DNS Hosts for Cybersquatting over Gambling Domains

June 13th, 2011 Comments off

3M has filed a broad lawsuit naming a larger number of registrars, webhosts and dns hosts for cybersquatting and infringing on the company’s brands. The lawsuit is also filed against some individual domain names that include the letters “3M” and “mmm”. A large number of the sites named in the lawsuit appear to be gambling sites, some of them using a logo that looks quite similar to the 3M logo. Some example domains names in the suit are mmmbet.net, 3mbet.net, 3m-sportbetting.com and 3MBet-Thai.com.

[via George Kirikos]

See the full list of the entities and companies the suit was filed against after the jump.

Directi Internet Solutions PVT. LTD., Doe Number 1, Doe Number 10, Doe Number 11, Doe Number 2, Doe Number 3, Doe Number 4, Doe Number 5, Doe Number 6, Doe Number 7, Doe Number 8, Doe Number 9, Domains By Proxy, Inc., Godaddy.com, Inc., Name.com, Pang International Limited, Prolexic Technologies, Inc., Softlayer Technologies, Inc., Tiggee LLC, Web Commerce Communications Limited, 3mbet-th.com, 3mbet-th.net, 3mbet-thai.com, 3mbet-thai.net, 3mbet.net, 3mbetth.com, 3mbetth.net, 3mbetthai.net, 3mbetthal.com, 3mbkk.com, 3minter.com, 3minter.net, 3msoccer.com, 3msoccer.net, 3mthai.com, 3mthai888.com, 3mthailand-official.com, Asia Netcom Asia Pacific Ltd., Bluehost Inc., CAT Telecom Public Company Ltd., 168mmm.net, 3M Company, 3m-asia.com, 3m-casino.com, 3m-th.com, 3m-thai.com, 3m-thai.net, 3m-thailand.com, 3mbet-online.com, mmm998.net, mmmbet.net, mmmth.com, mmmth.net, mmmthai.net, mmmwin.net, thai3m.com, thai3m.net, thailand3m.net, thaimmm.net, mmm-th.com, mmm-th.net, mmm-thai.com, mmm-thai.net, mmm123.net, mmm2u.net, mmm333.net, mmm456.net, mmm789.net, mmm888.net

 

[via George Kirikos]mmmbet.net

(c) 2011 DomainNameNews.com (7)


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National Arbitration Forum Reports a 24 Percent Increase in Domain Name Dispute Filings in 2010

April 7th, 2011 Comments off

While WIPO recently reported somewhat misleading that “Cybersquatting hit(s) record level“, the National Arbitration Forum reported their numbers today. They also report a higher amount of filed cases for 2010, up to 2,177 from 1,759 in 2009. Only 1,819 of the cases were actually heard by panellists, the remainder were settled beforehand.

When looking at Cybersquatting you need to put the numbers in relation to numbers of registered domain names and only look at those cases where a transfer or cancellation was ordered as a result of the dispute.

[via Press Release]

(c) 2011 DomainNameNews.com (2)


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Groupon Addresses Australian Cybersquatting Problem

January 5th, 2011 Comments off

Groupon has addressed a question in their blog titled Why Groupon Isn’t in Australia. The short answer is a cybersquatter / competitor has registered Groupon.com.au and the Groupon Pty Ltd business name as well as filed for a trademark for Groupon.

The cybersquatter is Scoopon, a Groupon clone, which is owned by two brothers, Gabby and Hezi Leibovitch. This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident either.  The brothers also own Woot.com.au and redirect it to a site similar to Woot.com (a deal of the day site owned by Amazon).  Their list continues with owning DealExtreme.com.au, DealExtreme.com is a popular deals site in the US, which redirects to their own deal website.  Andrew Mason doesn’t express as much concern about the cloning issue, but the trademark infringement seems to cross a line.

Andrew Mason writes:

“The way we see things, this is a classic case of domain squatting – an unfortunate reality of the Internet business. As Groupon became internationally known, opportunistic domain squatters around the world started to buy local Groupon domain names, thinking that we’d eventually be forced to buy them at an insane price. In fact, we tried to do just that, reluctantly offering Gabby and Hezi Leibovich about $286,000 for the Groupon.com.au domain and trademark—an offer they accepted. But now they’ve changed their minds, and we believe that they’ll only sell us the domain and trademark if we’re willing to buy the entire Scoopon business from them. Left with no other options, we’ve filed a lawsuit against Scoopon, claiming that their Groupon trademark was filed in bad faith (amongst other things).”

Despite believing they could win the lawsuit, they still offered $286,000 for the domain name and trademark. The cost of litigation and the amount of time it would take to resolve the dispute before they could start building a business using their own name must have been factored into that price. Mason states it could take ‘over a year to resolve.’

Ultimately, Mason announces Groupon is filing a lawsuit against Scoopon and launching in Australia under the name a temporary name: Stardeals. His final message is directed towards Scoopon stating the $286,000 offer is still on the table and asks users to help persuade Scoopon to accept their original deal.

What do you think? Is trying to pay off the alleged cybersquatter for $286,000 is a savvy business move or sending the wrong message and encouraging others to follow suit?

(c) 2010 DomainNameNews.com (1)


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John Zuccarini vs Office Depot, Collecting On An Old Judgment

March 1st, 2010 Comments off

John Zuccarini is back in the news fighting against the collection of a judgment by DS Holdings . DSH has been assigned a judgment by Office Depot from 2000 and is seeking to collect by seizing domain names.  Zuccarini was found guilty of cybersquatting on Office Depot’s trademark with the domain officdepot.com.  In the discovery process DSH has found that Zucarrini owns 248 domains and is seeking to levy these domains and sell them at auction to collect on the judgment.

In 2007, the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Zuccarini’s domain names constituted personal property located in California—the site of the domain name registry—and were subject to seizure to satisfy the judgment against Zuccarini.  DSH moved to have a receivership assist in executing the judgment in the Northern District of California.

The Court’s most recent decision clarifies that domains, as intangible property, are located in the Northern District based on the location of Verisign, the registry for the .com domain names. They stated in the decision “we conclude under California law that domain names are located where the registry is located for the purpose of asserting quasi in rem jurisdiction. Although the question is not directly before us, we add that we see no reason why for that purpose domain names are not also located where the relevant registrar is located.”

In case you are new to this whole “domain name thing”,  John Zuccarini was arrested and jailed in 2003 for violating the Truth in Domain Names Act.  Zuccarini had thousands of domain names which were typos of major brands, many of these led the user to adult websites and “mousetrapped” the user into viewing hundreds of sites.  The law makes it a federal crime for “whoever knowingly uses a misleading domain name on the Internet with the intent to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity” and “whoever knowingly uses a misleading domain name on the Internet with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful to minors on the Internet”.  Zuccarini was released in 2005.

(c) 2009 DomainNameNews.com

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PCWorld Recommends to Block Information.com

February 15th, 2010 Comments off

IDG’s PCWorld just published an article by Jared Newman about 15 Internet Annoyances and how to fix them. Of course the author thinks that parked domains are one of them, even if they may actually get the user to where they want to go. So Newman recommends all domains that involve framed parking on the Oversee.net owned Information.com domain:

13. This Web Site is Bogus

Sometimes when you mistype a URL or click an old, abandoned link, you’ll come upon these junky Web sites filled with useless links, a search bar that returns who-knows-what and a deliciously ironic slogan, “What you need, when you need it.” This is the work of cybersquatters, who occupy Web sites in hopes that you’ll click on those links and make them some money.

The Fix: Firefox users can once again use BlockSite to turn one major cybersquatter’s Web sites into blank pages–just add “*.information.com” to your restricted list. This will foil one major cybersquatter whos sites always refer back to that domain, but unfortunately the same trick doesn’t work in Internet Explorer’s list of restricted sites. No matter what browser you’re in, never give squatters the satisfaction of clicking on anything.

Of course the article also calls anyone who would re-register and park a previously registered and expired domain a cybersquatter, forgetting that the term implies an actual infringement on someones trademark. Maybe we should add journalists who do not do proper research to the list? I guess I could post that as a comment on his article, but then again, that would require registration on the site, which also is one of the annoyances he lists.

(c) 2009 DomainNameNews.com

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Domain Names as Property Subject to Creditor Claims – Bosh v. Zavala

November 16th, 2009 Comments off

The following is a guest post by Venkat Balasubramani – Venkat is a co-founder of Focal PLLC, a law firm focused on internet and technology issues. He blogs at Spam Notes and Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @VBalasubramani. This post was previously posted at Professor Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog.

Most people take it for granted that domain names are property. As such, there shouldn’t be much dispute that domain names are subject to the claims of judgment creditors. But I’ve seen enough resistance to this position that I thought a recent case was worth a quick mention. This recent case (Bosh v. Zavala (08-CV-04851-FMC-MANx) (C.D. Cal. Sept. 24, 2009)) also raises some interesting questions about the mechanics of trying to use a domain name to satisfy a judgment. This topic was also recently covered here on Domain Name News. For more perspectives, see Marc Randazza’s post on this case here; see also NYT; Deadspin.

Background: One of the early and often-cited cases for the proposition that a judgment creditor cannot get a domain name is Network Solutions, Inc. v. Umbro Int’l, Inc., 259 Va. 759, 770 (Va. 2000). In Umbro, the Virginia Supreme Court held that “a domain name registrant acquires the contractual right to use a unique domain name for a specified period of time…[but this] contractual right is inextricably bound to the domain name services that [Network Solutions] provides.” Umbro concluded that the domain name registration agreement was a “contract for services” (which was not subject to “garnishment”) rather than property. (Umbro was preceded by the Eastern District of Virginia’s decision in Dorel v. Arel where the court punted on the “issue of whether a domain name is personal property subject to [a lien]” because the judgment creditor could take advantage of an easier, practical solution: “the registrar’s policies.”)

Kremen v. Cohen: Enter Kremen v. Cohen, decided by the Ninth Circuit in 2003. Kremen cast a shadow over Umbro. Kremen involved an action for conversion where the underlying property was a domain name. One of the big questions in front of the court was whether a domain name was property which could support a claim for conversion. The court pretty definitively answered that a domain name was property and therefore could support a claim for conversion. Following Kremen, courts started to realize that since domain names are property, they should be subject to the claims of judgment creditors. (See Office Depot, Inc. v. Zuccarini, 621 F. Supp. 2d 773 (N.D. Cal. 2007).) More recently, in Bosh, Judge Florence Marie-Cooper of the Central District of California allowed Toronto Raptors basketball player Christopher Bosh to seize a slew of domain names held by Luis Zavala, based on a cybersquatting judgment obtained by Bosh.

The key conceptual question to resolve is whether domain names are freely transferable, or whether domain name registration services are contracts personal to the registrant. Given the emergence of the flourishing secondary domain name market, you would think there would be no dispute as a practical matter as to whether domain names are freely transferable. But it’s not as hard you may think to encounter people who argue that domain names are just personal contract rights. For example, in 2009, Network Solutions took this position in the Kentucky domain name case where the Kentucky AG tried to seize numerous domain names based on the fact that they were “gambling devices” used in contravention of Kentucky law. (See pages 7 through 11 of their amicus brief filed in Kentucky: [pdf].) The Kentucky AG’s decision was on questionable legal grounds for a variety of reasons, but I was surprised to see Network Solutions’ reliance in its amicable brief on Umbro.

From a practical standpoint, the big question is whether a judgment debtor has assets that can be sold to satisfy a judgment. If there are such assets (whether in the form of domain names or otherwise), most courts are going to find a way to let the judgment creditor get at them. There may be tweaks around whether the particular statute in question covers a certain type of property (see, e.g., Palacio Del Mar Homeowner’s Association, Inc. v. McMahon, 174 Cal. App. 4th 1386 (2009) (domain names are not subject to “turnover order,” coincidentally, the same type of order Bosh obtained)), but it’s a mistake to see these cases as somehow rejecting the theory domain names are properly subject to the claims of creditors. One caveat: even if domain name registration services are not contracts personal to the registrant, not every domain name can be easily bought and sold. As discussed in a moment, certain types of domain names – including potentially those involved in Bosh – are tougher to monetize without stepping on the toes of third parties.

Process Questions: In Bosh, the domain names all related to the names of famous athletes and celebrities and were ordered “turned over” to Bosh. Bosh plans on distributing them to other athletes whose names the defendant was squatting on. (Bosh plays for the Toronto Raptors and the defendant squatted on the names of Bosh and many other athletes.) Bosh is somewhat atypical since Bosh didn’t really care about satisfying the judgment he obtained and probably will not undertake further efforts to collect. But one of the problems with Bosh is that it doesn’t set any sort of process to value the domain names. Is the defendant’s judgment satisfied based on the turnover? Who is to say? A turnover to Bosh is sort of an awkward result, and seemingly precluded by the statute (see McMahon), but Zavala was not around to contest the issues, so it is what it is.

A related problem is that Bosh would have a tough time selling the domain names, given that there would be little guarantee that any purchaser would steer clear of engaging in the same conduct that the defendant did in Bosh. The court in Zuccarini alludes to this. (See Zuccarini, 621 F. Supp. 2d at 778, fn. 7.) It’s unlikely a court would ever conclude this, but if Bosh decided to auction off the names that were turned over, would he be treading close to the cybersquatting line?

Back to the typical case. Some would argue there’s some sort of non-infringing use for all domain names, and that it’s up to the purchaser to figure out non-infringing uses. There are plenty of established auction houses that regularly deal in domain names (e.g., Moniker; Sedo). The best bet is to sell a domain name through a court-blessed third party auction. Theoretically, the market price at an auction will accurately reflect the assessment of purchasers as to how the domain name can be used. I guess a very rough analogy is that real property is freely exchangeable, but you can only use it without injuring the rights of your neighbors. No one argues based on the hypothetical nuisance claims of neighbors that real property is not freely exchangeable and therefore not subject to the rights of creditors.

At the end of the day, there are plenty of issues around the fringes, but domain names are likely not off limits for judgment debtors based on the theory that domain names are not “property”. Most courts will find a way to let judgment creditors get at domain names. That’s not to say that the process of seizing the names and disposing of them does not raise thorny issues.

(c) 2009 DomainNameNews.com

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Expanding Interpretation of UDRP Helps German Bank Win ‘Domain Lottery’

October 16th, 2009 Comments off

Despite being clearly limited in scope, the purpose of the UDRP continues to be ignored by experienced panelists. The result is an ever-expanding environment for domain disputes that exists completely far from any legislative or judicial oversight.

In the recently decide Deutsche Kreditbank AG v. DKB Data Services (USA), Inc. D2009-1084 (WIPO Sept 30, 2009), the respondent registered a three letter domain name (dkb.com) in 2001. NB: DomainTools (my favorite research tool) shows a record creation date in 1996. During this period the domain had been registered with a single registrar with only 2 name-server changes in seven years. Evidently the domain had not been used recently. The panelist, Mr. Swinson, accepted the statement of the complainant’s private investigator’s that the respondent was dissolved after it had merged with another company in 2002. Mr. Swinson concluded that the dissolution, followed by non-use was sufficient to transfer it to the complainant. (Obviously, the panelist did not know that the company was a client of “The Mill House Inn” in Long Island.  It will also be a disappointment to cfsoftware who will no doubt have lost a customer.) Whether the “investigator’s” statement was a sworn declaration was not disclosed in the decision. Notwithstanding the apparent dissolution, however, the respondent did maintain the registration. Is this “cybersquatting”? According to this panelist, it is.

Respondent’s default meant the complainant’s allegations were not challenged. Nevertheless, an unchallenged complaint does not entitle a panelist to issue decisions that are so obviously contrary to the purposes of the UDRP. In case it has escaped anyone, the UDRP Policy was designed to deal only with the limited problem of “cybersquatting”. “Cybersquatting” is the “deliberate, bad faith, abusive registration of domain names in violation of others rights.” (WIPO Final Report, 1999, p29). Numerous decisions confirm that it is NOT designed to resolve trademark disputes, business disputes, contract disputes, employment disputes etc. Such “complicated” matters fall outside the scope. The Policy is not designed to decide who has a “better” right to a domain, but merely whether a registration is abusive according to certain standards.

In Deutsche Kreditbank, the panelist first found a lack of legitimate interest because none of the paragraph 4(c) descriptions of a possible legitimate interest could apply and, of course the Respondent, who was no longer in business, obviously had not provided any evidence of a bona fide use. The most troubling aspect, however, was the panelist’s fabrication of bad faith registration based on the Telstra decision. The panelist concluded that the current use was “passive” thus supporting a presumption of original bad faith intent.

The panelist’s application of Telstra leaves much to be desired. He openly doubted whether the complainant’s mark was well-known, holding that it was reasonable to conclude that the U.S. located respondent did not know about the German bank. Normally, if a respondent is unaware of the complainant, much more is required to show the kind of deliberate intent required for a finding of “cybersquatting”. The panelist then concluded that despite the fact that the respondent once was an existing company, it was not possible to conceive the respondent using the domain in any legitimate way. Finally, the panelist held that although the respondent may not have intentionally concealed its identity, it was not possible to contact him on a given address and respondent did not provide a response. Ultimately, Mr. Swinson justified his illogical decision by pointing out that the respondent “in all likelihood” was dissolved and thus the domain name would be of limited value to its operation as a business. This final point clarifies the inappropriateness of the entire decision.

The fact that the respondent had existed when the time the domain was registered is conclusive evidence of the absence of bad faith registration. The statements by the complainant’s investigator – that the respondent had been dissolved – are an admission that the respondent had in fact existed. The continued registration clearly indicates that a valid property right remained in the hands of the respondent. Dissolution does not cause property rights to evaporate – they transfer to the proper successor in interest. The lack of use here is irrelevant.

This decision typifies the continued expansion of the UDRP well beyond its intended scope. Without judicial oversight it is impossible to effectively challenge such wayward panelists and guide the UDRP process so that it is truly equitable. While Telstra may have been created to deal with a particular difficult factual situation, that decision itself went beyond the bounds of the UDRP. While the rationale of Telstra may be justified by the limited circumstances it was intended to address, the Deutsche Kreditbank decision shows the danger of a system where panelists with little or no judicial sense apply “precedent” to justify a decision to award a domain name to the person with a “better” use.

Decisions like Deutsche Kreditban only encourage trademark owners to try to use the UDRP to obtain domains that they are not in any manner entitled to but desire nevertheless. They are but another reason to encourage the establishment of an appeals process (or at least an ombudsman) or to require a regular peer review of panelists.

Author Paul Keating, ESQ. is a California attorney who is lucky enough to both live and work in Barcelona, Spain.

(c) 2009 DomainNameNews.com

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