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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Nasdaq evicts 'cybersquatter'
The Nasdaq stock exchange has succeeded in evicting a "cybersquatter" from four websites that it says it should control.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the body that arbitrates internet address disputes, ruled that the four domains incorporating the word nasdaq had been registered in bad faith.
But Nasdaq argued that its brand name was sufficiently well-known that any use by another entity could only be done with the deliberate aim of confusing the public.
Nasdaq is the latest in a long list of firms and public figures that have entered into disputes over internet domain names - not all successfully.
Arbitration of domain-name disputes is a tricky business, relying largely on the proof of good faith at the time of registration.
Earlier this year, WIPO found in favour of a Mr AR Mani, who had registered the domain armani.com to use for his graphic design business.
A complaint from fashion giant Armani, which claimed its established brand name ought to give it priority over the internet address, was rejected by WIPO.
But in the case of Mr Zavier, the panel found little evidence of similar justification.
Citing another recent dispute, between the pop star Madonna and a cybersquatter on the madonna.com address, the panel said: "Use which intentionally trades on the fame of another can not constitute a 'bona fide' offering of goods or services.
"The panel concludes that the respondent registered the contested domain name in order to divert consumers to the respondent's web site in a way that was misleading and illegitimate."
The case was, however, hotly contested.
Mr Zavier argued that he needed the addresses for legitimate business purposes, since his business was oriented towards financial publications.
WIPO rules can uphold ownership rights in domain disputes, if "its use of, or demonstrable preparations to use, the contested domain name or a name corresponding to the contested domain name [is] in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services".
But Nasdaq pointed out that the domains had been "parked" - in other words, no web page appeared when a visitor surfed to one of the addresses.
That, Nasdaq said, proved that Mr Zavier was more interested in obstructing Nasdaq than legitimately promoting his own business.
"People who may access the infringing domain names in an attempt to reach Nasdaq's site may incorrectly believe that Nasdaq's web site is not functioning," Nasdaq argued.
The panel derived further evidence of underhand dealing from the fact that Mr Zavier's 20 web addresses had all been registered under a peculiar variety of aliases - some of which were near mis-spellings of his name.
"The panel is concerned that the respondent is either a bad typist, or has a habit of giving misleading or incorrect information in relation to a domain name registration," WIPO said.
This made it hard to pin down the exact status of Mr Zavier's business activities.
"The respondent, in this dispute, gave no explanation as to whether 'Green Angel' was a person, partnership, corporation, alias or some other type of entity."
Let's make a deal
Once the complaint was lodged, Mr Zavier made several attempts to come to an agreement with Nasdaq.
According to the WIPO judgement, he offered to transfer the web addresses to Nasdaq, in return for links from those sites to others that he controlled.
He later upped his offer, saying he would give Nasdaq the addresses, in exchange for a banner advertisement of his on the sites, for which he would pay $10.
The panel ruled that such approaches did not constitute the classic form of cybersquatting, where the illegitimate controller of the addresses asks an exorbitant sum in order to give them back - essentially, holding them to ransom.
"The respondent's offers to the complainant appear to be genuine (although bold) offers to try to settle a dispute," WIPO said.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the primary purpose of the respondent registering the contested domain names was to profit from a transfer of these domain names."
The names registered by Mr Zavier were: nasdaqstockexchanges.com; nasdaqstockmarket.com; nasdaqamexstockexchange.com; and nasdaqexchanges.com.
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