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After the gold rush Featured

9:35am EDT July 22, 2002

The cyberpirate who registered www.worldwrestlingfederation.com likely had dreams of a handsome payday.

Instead, he got a virtual body slam from Vince McMahon's ultrapopular, big-time wrestling empire by way of a little-known domain name dispute policy that went into effect last January.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the governing body responsible for administering the domain name system across the globe, adopted a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy at the beginning of this year that allows domain names registered in "bad faith" to be reclaimed by their rightful owners. What's more, the dispute resolution process spans only 57 days from start to finish.

So instead of walking away with a lot of money from the World Wrestling Federation for the domain name he had registered just three days before contacting the Connecticut-based entertainment giant, the California man who registered www.worldwrestlingfederation.com was found to be acting in "bad faith" and was stripped of the name.

Since the dispute resolution policy costs a meager $1,000 to $2,500, it is no wonder the WWF has used it more than once to silence cybersquatters who hope to capitalize on the worldwide popularity of big-time wrestling. But, before you set off to capture that elusive domain name you've been trying to pin down, it's probably a good idea to see whether your case would hold water with ICANN.

"Just because a business uses a name and has used that name forever does not mean it has a right to any particular domain name that is out there," explains Candace Jones, a partner in the Cleveland office of Hahn, Loeser & Parks. "If you do not meet the bad faith requirement, you may not be able to rely on this arbitration procedure."

So, what constitutes bad faith? Someone who purchases a domain name similar or identical to your corporate trademark, then contacts you offering to sell it at an inflated price is a textbook example. Another is the case of an industry competitor which purchases a domain name for no other reason than to keep it from you.

Although these examples make the process seem rather simple, Jones says it a somewhat tricky process at best. She cites the case of Parker Brothers, which wanted the domain name www.clue.com taken from a computing firm because of the company's long-standing board game of the same name.

However, Clue Computing fought the attack and won because there was no "bad faith" involved.

"Obviously nobody is going to confuse a board game with a computing company," explains Jones. "So Clue Computing had every right to use www.clue.com to describe its business. You just can't bump somebody out of a domain name that they also have a legitimate claim to."

Nevertheless, if you're sure an appeal to ICANN will help you snare your trademarked domain name from a cyberpirate, the process for filing a complaint is relatively elementary and does not impede any court action you may take outside of it.

Complaints must be submitted to ICANN in hard copy and electronic form and address a variety of points. The party accused of cyberpirating is given time to respond and a panel is then seated to rule on the matter.

Meanwhile, the fees must be paid within 10 days of registering the complaint with ICANN or the case will be withdrawn. Detailed information about the entire process can be found at www.icann.org.

The only limitation of the dispute resolution policy, it seems, is the fact that those who file a complaint cannot seek monetary damages for the actions of the cybersquatter. For that, a company must turn to the federal anticybersquatting statute and set a date in court, a process that will undoubtedly take much longer and cost more money, but one that also allows damage claims to scale as high as $100,000. How to reach: Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP, (216) 621-0150 or www.hahnlaw.com

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN.