Material Girl Kicks Cybersquatter Off Madonna.com

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Source: Reuters

By: Elif Kaban

(GENEVA) — Pop superstar Madonna (news – web sites) has won her case at an international panel to evict a New York cybersquatter from the Internet address madonna.com which was initially a porn site, U.N. arbitrators said on Monday.

The American singer, whose famous hits include “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl”, filed the complaint in July at the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization against businessman Dan Parisi who was first to register the Internet address.

A three-member panel at WIPO, the United Nations (news – web sites) copyright and intellectual property agency which runs an arbitration system that evicts cybersquatters, ordered Parisi to transfer the site to Madonna.

The panel said Parisi, who is a Web site developer, had no trademark right to the name Madonna and failed to prove legitimate interest in the Internet domain name which he had registered in bad faith.

Cybersquatters are people who register famous names as domains in the hope of making a quick profit.

Madonna argued that the site, which initially carried pornography that was later removed, tarnished her name. WIPO noted that the singer had used her name and trademark Madonna professionally since 1979.

WIPO said this was not the first cybersquatting case involving Parisi, who had registered domain names including wallstreetjournal.com.

As domain names have become more valuable with the meteoric rise of the Internet, a market has emerged for opportunists to grab addresses in the current system which is largely first come, first served.

WIPO’s fast-track arbitration system allows firms and individuals to avoid costly lawsuits in cases when mischief is obviously involved or large amounts of money are at stake.

WIPO has received more than 1,000 cases related to disputed domain names since its arbitration system began last year. Decisions were made in more than half of the cases, some 80 percent of which went in favor 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 favor of celebrities, including Hollywood film star Julia Roberts and British rock band Jethro Tull, to evict cybersquatters.

British pop star Sting failed in his attempt this year to win back sting.com from an American who had registered it first. The application was denied last month by WIPO because it said sting was “a common English word”.