Top 7 Domain Wars
The perfect domain name is descriptive, short, and memorable; it should be capable of evoking positive feelings that encourage visitors to frequent your site. So what happens when you make a spelling mistake that could completely cripple your company or foundation if the correct version is in use by a competing site, or you forget to renew your domain name and another user snatches it before realising the unpardonable error of your actions?
The list below discusses some of the most high profile battles the internet has witnessed and the winners/losers from each battle.
Tesla vs. Stu Grossman
Stu Grossman, a California based computer network engineer bought the domain name ‘tesla.com’ in 1992 and left it unused. The popularity of the Tesla name caused some legal problems in 2005 when Tesla Industries Inc. attempted to get the domain but were unsuccessful. The auto giants had filed a petition to the National Arbitration Forum requesting access to the site since it is known by the name. However, Grossman was able to show sufficient proof he was the legal owner of the domain by arguing that the word ‘Tesla’ is the standard SI unit of magnetic flux density, hence a generic term.
After the public battle, Grossman started receiving numerous requests from domainers seeking to buy or borrow the name and he finally decided to sell it for an undisclosed fee (rumoured to be in the seven figures) to Tesla. The recently acquired domain name now serves as the official domain name for Tesla Motors.
Google vs. Goggle
Domain Name registration giants, Free Parking, advises users to purchase all versions of their domain name along with domain name extensions, to prevent typo-similar sites from stealing customers through errors entering the website address. This was the case with search engine giant Google when the National Arbitration Panel allowed the original domain registrants of goggle.com to retain domain rights, dismissing the case on procedural grounds.
The registrants of goggle.com use the domain as a site where users are enticed to sign up for quizzes (charged at SMS rate) with Apple gadgets as the winning prizes. The Panel claimed the dispute was not within the scope of UDRP because it pertained to a business agreement entered into by two parties (the registrants asserted the previous owner had a legally binding agreement with Google that allows both sites to co-exist and those rights transferred upon purchase).
Starwars vs starwars.co.uk
This is a classic example of why it is important to purchase popular domain extensions for your brand. A fancy dress shore in Berkshire squared up with Disney in a drawn out battle for rights to the domain name starwars.co.uk. Absscissa operates six websites with the Star Wars name linking to a webpage that sells props and costumes for people who want to dress up as their favourite characters.
Web registration body Nominet instructed the British company to relinquish user rights to Disney because Abscissa falsely uses the starwars.co.uk domain name to infer a commercial connection to the original Star Wars franchise.
No one has successfully appealed a Nominet decision since 2013 and, unsurprisingly, Disney emerged victorious.
MTV vs Adam Curry
In the early days of the internet, some large corporations and companies didn’t see the need to grab premium domain names for their business because they didn’t expect it to last. Hence, when former MTV VJ Adam Curry sought permission from MTV to purchase the domain name “mtv.com” in 1993, they granted it.
VJ Curry left in 1994 and the network suddenly realised the domain name was one that would be crucial to their business operations. They sued Curry for ownership; Curry who refused to budge claiming this battle would be the internet’s version of the ‘Roe V. Wade’ case.
He ultimately handed over control, settling out of court for an undisclosed payment (definitely not how Roe V. Wade ended).
McDonalds vs. Joshua Quittner
Sometimes low-paid journalists do crazy things to prove a point, and that’s exactly what Joshua Quittner did in 1994 when he bought the domain name ‘Mcdonalds.com’ to reflect the growing importance of domain names for an article he was writing for Wired. At the end of the article, he encouraged readers to send suggestions for the domain name to his email Ronald@mcdonalds.com. Should he park it, keep it as a trophy, or alternatively, auction it off? Surprisingly, no one suggested selling it to McDonald’s for a profit and Quittner finally handed the domain name to McDonald’s after a $3,500 donation to a public school of his choosing.
Hasbro vs IEG
This is one of the most interesting domain name debacles we’ve had on the internet, considering that the case was between Hasbro, the makers of Candyland, and Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), a porn company.
IEG Ltd. bought the domain name ‘candyland.com’ back in 1995 and Hasbro was not pleased with the decision. They took legal action against IEG and won a short-lived court battle. The court explained that Hasbro has retained trademark ownership of Candyland since 1951 and an innocent, underage minor viewing the website would expect to find more PG content associated with children’s games.
Martin McCann vs. the Winehouse Foundation
Although this case never made it to court, it was a domain name problem nonetheless. In the wake of Amy Winehouse’s death in 2011, Internet opportunist Mitch McCain rushed to incorporate the Amy Winehouse Foundation Ltd with Companies House and paid £160 to register the domain name www.amywinehousefoundation.com. The Winehouse family had decided to set up a foundation in Amy’s name that would cater to young people battling drug addictions but were forced to return donations after Amy’s father Mitch was unable to open an operating account with the name.
McCann also contacted Amy’s widowed husband Blake to set-up a sale but was unsuccessful. He defended his actions by stating “I’ve just bought some domain names anybody could have…detach yourself from emotions and think business”. Other versions of the domain name including “amywinehousefoundation.org” (the current official domain name of the Amy Winehouse foundation), were purchased by various internet opportunists and it is unclear how any settlement granting Mitch Winehouse administrative control of the domain name was reached.
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