Cybersquatters Ordered to Give Up Sites

A U.N. panel ruled today that a Uruguay resident and another group of cybersquatters must give up 40 Internet sites containing the names of Yahoo! Inc. or its unit GeoCities.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which runs an arbitration system to evict cybersquatters or Net users who register famous names in the hope of making quick profits, said the sites were registered in bad faith.

Do You Yahoo?

In the first case, which followed a complaint from the U.S. Internet media network, a WIPO panel ruled that Jorge Kirovsky, a Uruguay resident, must give up the sites www.yahooemail.net, www.yahoofree.net, www.yahoofree.com and www.yahoochat.net.

The panel said Kirovsky was acting in bad faith when he registered the domain names, and that he had no legitimate interest in the sites which were confusingly similar to Yahoo! trademarks.

In the second case concerning Yahoo!, the WIPO panel ordered U.S.-based companies Data Art Corp, DataArt Enterprises Inc. and Powerclick Inc., as well as three entities based in Belize, to quit a total of 36 Internet addresses they had registered containing the name Yahoo! or GeoCities, Yahoo!’s fully owned subsidiary.

The sites ranged from www.ayhoo.com and chatyahoo.com to www.eocities.com, www.geosities.com and www.wwwmyyahoo.com.

WIPO said the sites had been registered in bad faith, were confusingly similar to Yahoo’s and GeoCities’ trademarks and that their holders had no legitimate interest in keeping them.

Value in Domain Names

Domain names have become more valuable with the advance of the Internet, and a market has emerged for opportunists to grab net addresses under the current system, which is largely first-come, first-served.

The fast-track arbitration system of WIPO, the specialized U.N. copyright and intellectual property agency, allows firms and individuals to avoid costly lawsuits in cases where mischief is the motive or serious money is at stake.

WIPO has received more than 1,000 cases related to disputed domain names since it set up the system last year. Decisions have been made in more than half of the cases, some 80 percent of them in favour of the complainants.

Companies that have won back their names from alleged cybersquatters through WIPO so far include Christian Dior, Deutsche Bank, Microsoft and Nike.

WIPO has also ruled in favour of celebrities, including Hollywood film star Julia Roberts and British rock band Jethro Tull, to evict cybersquatters.

Roberts and Jethro Tull succeeded where British pop star Sting failed as his attempt to win back sting.com from an American who had registered it first was denied last month by WIPO because it said “sting” was a common English word.

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