News Round Up

January 2005

Domain name disputes: from fiction to football

Fans of JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter books who hoped to access the author’s website by (mis-)typing <> or <>, were disenchanted to find themselves on a cybersquatter’s site, bombarded with pop-up advertising. So the author took the case to the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. On November 22, 2004, the WIPO appointed panelist, Beatrice Jarka, ordered that the domain names be transferred to Joanne K. Rowling. The panelist found that Rowling had established unregistered trademark rights in the mark JK ROWLING, having sold millions of books under that name; and that the registrant of the disputed domain names, an individual from Uruguay with a history of typosquatting, had registered the domain names in bad faith in order to take financial advantage of the many people attempting to reach a JK Rowling-related website. (Typosquatting refers to the registering of domain names similar to well-known brands, but with a deliberate mis-spelling, for example. using an adjacent letter on the keyboard.)WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center has dealt with 7,000 cases under the fast-track, low-cost Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) procedure, with parties from some 120 different countries. These include a host of famous names, such as Brazilian football star Ronaldinho of FC Barcelona, who scored a 1 – 0 victory against a U.S. domain name broker in December 2004.

In a UDRP proceeding, a trademark owner whose mark has been registered as a domain name by someone else can file a complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. The Center appoints an independent legal expert who considers submissions from the trademark owner and the domain name holder. If the expert determines that the Complainant owns trademark rights, the domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark, the Respondent has no legitimate interest in the domain name, and the domain name is registered and used in bad faith, then the expert can order the transfer of the domain name to the Complainant.


Trademark protection for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has also been troubled by cybersquatters. His foundation recently had the web site shut down. Moreover, Mr. Mandela has found that, not only his name – on the Internet, in shopping malls, on advertising billboards, on gold coins, as character merchandising on goods – but even his prison number and his clan name are being abusively used without authorization. Mr. Mandela is now seeking trademark registration to protect his name. In the meantime, he is discouraging abusers by writing to inform them that he and his charity foundation have proprietary rights over his name, and that they must request authorization if they wish to make use of it.


Duet from heartSTRINGS performed by Ms. Brenner and Mr. John-Mario Sevilla  (Photo: UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

‘Copyright and Choreography’ Dance Performance

The WIPO Coordination Office in New York hosted a discussion on "Copyright and Choreography" and a dance performance by the renowned New York company, "Janis Brenner and Dancers", on November 10 in the Dag Hammarsjkold Auditorium at the United Nations. Ms. Brenner, choreographer and lead dancer, prefaced the three dances with a comment on her experiences of performing them in different countries and continents. Questions from the audience helped to bring out the link between copyright and choreography, and to illustrate WIPO’s international mandate. Audience members from the diplomatic corps noted that the discussion and performance had enlivened their understanding of WIPO and its mandate.




Disposable DVDs – Countdown to self-destruction

French manufacturers have just released a new disposable DVD: after opening the box, the customer has eight hours to watch it before it self-destructs. The discs, on the market at a similar price to DVD rentals, are chemically timed – the surface of the disc gets darker once exposed to air and eventually becomes completely opaque and unreadable by DVD players. These discs can be illegally copied and pirated, like any other DVD, yet movie studios may see advantage in the disposables in that they will reduce the scope for illegal reproduction. The Walt Disney Company has been experimenting in test markets for the past year with a version that becomes unplayable after 48 hours. The inventors of the eight-hour version are using its short life expectancy – and thus limited time for creating counterfeits – as part of their promotion of the DVDs. DVD rental stores that stock them will spare their clients the chore of bringing back movie rentals to avoid surcharges. Environmentalists worry that these new discs will exacerbate landfill problems, but the discs and casings are recyclable. The disposable DVDs were first introduced on the market in 1998, but have yet to catch on. As copyright owners seek new ways to protect their works, the disposable discs may become more attractive.


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