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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Roberts wins cybersquatter battle
Julia Roberts
Roberts is one of many stars fighting cybersquatters
Actress Julia Roberts has won a legal battle to prevent anyone else using her name as an internet domain name.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) granted Roberts exclusive rights to her name after she filed a complaint against US cybersquatter Russell Boyd.

A cybersquatter is someone who registers the names of famous people or companies and selling them for a high fee to their rightful owner.


Tina Turner
Tina Turner was another successful claimant

Boyd - a dealer in famous names - was the first person to register the Pretty Woman star's title as the web address juliaroberts.com.

But the WIPO's arbitration panel ruled that Roberts had common law trademark rights on her name and that Boyd had "no rights or legitimate interest in the domain name".

The Hollywood actress is just one of 531 claimants from 52 countries to have filed similar complaints with the WIPO.

Anyone can register a website address in the US for $100 (63).

The WIPO's chief legal counsel and assistant director-general, Francis Gurry, said such claims were becoming increasingly common - particulary among big businesses and celebrities.

"Sports and entertainment names are figuring more and more prominently," said Gurry.

He added: "Trademarks is really branding, which is worth a lot of money. We understand through these cases the commercial interests of an identity."

Ground-breaking case

Boyd was ordered to transfer juliaroberts.com back to the actress within 45 days. He has 10 days to challenge the decision.

In his battle with Roberts, the dealer - who operates from Princeton, New Jersey - argued that she had no common law trademark rights to her name.

Other celebrities with cases pending include singer Tina Turner and the band Jethro Tull.

From the business world, companies such as Christian Dior and Nike have also successfully won back their names.

Last week British writer Jeanette Winterson won the rights to her name from a philosophy research fellow at Cambridge University who has registered the names of around 130 high-profile authors.

Gurry described that case as a "ground-breaker" because it established that the legal rights to a trademark did not require it to be first registered.

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See also:

26 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Winterson wins on web
15 Nov 99 | e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
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