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Julia Roberts Gets Her Domain Name Back

By Digital Journal Staff     Jun 8, 2000 in Technology
If you log on to www.juliaroberts.com, you may see a collection of legal
arguments between the owner of the site and attorneys representing actress
Julia Roberts. By the time you get there the site may be down, because Ms.
Roberts is the now rightful owner of the domain name, according to the
United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization. The WIPO said what
it called a "cybersquatter," Russell Boyd of Princeton, N.J., had no
legitimate right to register the name.
The actress benefited from an earlier decision by the WIPO on a lesser-known
public figure, British author Jeanette Winterson. A researcher at Cambridge
University had registered her name, along with about 130 other authors.
In canceling those registrations, the WIPO ruled that a trademark does not
have to be formally registered for the owner of the trademark to assert the
right to control its use on the Internet. The ruling has important
implications for individuals and for small companies that may not have filed
for trademark registration on well-recognized names and brands.
Many companies, including Nike, Christian Dior and Microsoft have won the
right to take back domain names which infringe on their trademarks. Web
sites that play on the names of actors, authors, musicians, sports figures
and other celebrities are the latest crop of cases before the WIPO.
The Roberts and Winterson decision suggest that the WIPO is inclined to
favor the rights of these public figures over those of cybersquatters, which
it defines as those who have "no rights or legitimate interest in the domain
name," and register them in bad faith.
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