Jeanette Winterson has won her case against Mark Hogarth, the Cambridge academic who registered 132 writers’ names as domain names.
Mr Hogarth registered the domain names jeanettewinterson.com, /.net and /.org. Ms Winterson first found out about this when she discussed the setting up of a website with her publishers. According to Ms Winterson Mr Hogarth admitted to her that he had done this to make money. Other authors had been offered their domain names for 3% of their 1999 gross book sales.
Ms Winterson filed a complaint under the dispute resolution procedure set up by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Under the ICANN Dispute Resolution Policy she had to prove three things:
- the domain name was identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark in which she had rights;
- Mr Hogarth had no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and
- the domain name had been registered and was being used in bad faith.
Ms Winterson had not registered her name as a trade mark, but the panellist decided that, although unregistered, it was still a trade mark. Mr Hogarth was found to have no legitimate interest in the domain name, and his intention to auction domain names, together with the absence of any use of the name in relation to active websites, was enough to demonstrate bad faith.
More complaints can now be expected by the many other individuals who have fallen victim to cybersquatters. The ICANN procedure is exceptionally fast (decisions are reached in a matter of weeks) and the costs are low by comparison with court proceedings. The same rules apply worldwide and, as in Ms Winterson’s case, the decisions coming down from the panellists are generally sensible.