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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Sting stung online
Sting: Failed to prove his name was a trademark
Pop musician Sting has failed to evict an alleged cybersquatter who owns the website address

The website owner, who says he has used the address for eight years, was accused of cybersquatting - registering the name in the hope of making a fortune from selling the name to the singer.

Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, took the case to the international domain name arbitration service of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

The UN-run agency says celebrities have common law trademark rights to their names, but Sting failed to prove the name had been registered in bad faith and also that his name was a trademark.

He is the first celebrity to suffer such a defeat.

Common English word

Sting claimed the American holder of the site, Michael Urvan, had offered to sell it back for $25,000 (16,500).

But Mr Urvan, from Georgia, denied the claim and Sting's lawyers offered no proof to support it.

The WIPO panel acknowledged that Sting is a "world famous entertainer" known by that name but also ruled it was also a common English word, listing its multiple meanings in a dictionary.

Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts won back her domain name from a 'cybersquatter'
WIPO arbitrator Andrew F Christie said Mr Urvan, a keen computer games player, had demonstrated he had used the word "sting" in e-mail and internet addresses for some time.

As evidence Mr Urvan submitted web page printouts from The Champions League of Quake, a service which monitors the online game Quake.

They showed many people had used the word "sting" while playing the game.

Mr Christie said: "The word is undistinctive and most likely is used by numerous people in cyberspace.

"In practice this word provides the respondent with anonymity rather than with a name by which he is commonly known."

Track record

WIPO has a track record of evicting so-called "cybersquatters".

It has recently found in favour of Julia Roberts, Christian Dior, Deutsche Bank, Microsoft and Nike.

817 cases have been filed since WIPO's online arbitration system was set up in December 1999, leading to 316 decisions. 81% of the cases have led to the eviction of the alleged cybersquatter.

But experts say WIPO panel decisions can be challenged in national courtrooms.

See also:

24 Nov 99 | Entertainment
Sting's millennium party pulled
19 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Sting hits millennium high note
02 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Roberts wins cybersquatter battle
26 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Winterson wins on web
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