Issue 212, September 26, 2000  
 
 
 

Cybersquatting: Sinister or Simply Good Business?

By Stephen M. Lawton

      There's a great deal of debate these days over cybersquatting — the act of registering a domain name and then later selling it for a profit. But is cybersquatting the evil that some celebrities, organizations and companies say it is, or is it simply their bad luck not to have had the foresight to register their own domain when they could, allowing some more enterprising individual the opportunity to make a profit?
      This was brought home to me recently when I decided that it was time to sell one of three domain names that I own. I have been using this name for more than five years — not for a Web site but rather for one of my personal e-mail addresses. I posted it on one of the services that resells names, but then thought about calling several companies that use this four-letter acronym as part of their name. My thought was that they would be ideal candidates for this domain name, but I hesitated to contact them for fear that one of them would think it less expensive to sue me than to buy it.
      This is a curious dilemma that, I'm sure, others have faced. On August 4, MicroTimes.com ran a story about Uzi Nissan, an Israeli-American born in Jerusalem who registered the domain name nissan.com in May 1994. He created a site to expand his Raleigh, NC-based computer business, the Nissan Computer Corp. that he started in 1991. On Dec. 10, 1999, Nissan, the carmaker, sued in a California district court for trademark dilution and domain name piracy. Nissan, the person, estimated his legal costs reached $1 million. "It's my legal last name, after all, and they have no right to it. I feel like David against the Japanese Goliath," Mr. Nissan stated.
      I got to thinking about this and decided to pop over to GreatDomains.com, one of the sites that resells domain names. There, you can find a good variety, ranging from the obvious, such as bestdeal.com or visual.com to the obscure, such as iKB.net or qzzk.com. (qzzk.com is listed for sale at $100,000. Wow.)
      But what about those with names that are close to a business's name? Will the owner of ACEU.com get a nastygram from the lawyers of the Air Corporation Employees Union in India? How about the Colombiana de Estudiantes Universitarios, which is Colombia's national association of university students, which uses ACEU as its acronym?
      In this litigious society, where corporations and individuals alike expect instant gratification or they'll call their lawyers, I fear we could be in for some unpleasantness.
      What the heck — anyone want to buy a domain name?

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