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German Supreme Court rules in favor of 'generic domain grabbing'

First-come, first-served system 'not unethical'

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The German Supreme Court has ruled that merely registering generic terms as domain names does not constitute an unethical intent to cause damage, online magazine Heise Online reports.

The court says that registering domain names is typically based on a first-come, first-served principle. The resulting advantage for the person who registers first can thus not be seen as unethical, the Court argues.

The decision comes after several regional courts ruled in favor of Germany's Axel Springer, the country's second-largest magazine publisher, which sued a businessman from Kaarst for registering more than 4000 generic domain names, including www.welt-online.de.

Die Welt is one of the newspapers Axel Springer owns; however the name 'welt online' (world online) can also be used in a generic way. Although the businessman was forced to hand over the domain name www.welt-online.de to Axel Springer, he managed to hold onto www.weltonline.de, for which Alex Springer sued him again. Now the court has come to his rescue.

The ruling doesn't necesarily mean that domain name grabbers have free play. The German Trademark Act (Markengesetz: MarkenG), the Unfair Competition Act (Gesetz gegen unlauteren Wettbewerb: UWG) and sections of the Civil Code (Buergerliches Gesetzbuch: BGB) can still prevent domain grabbers from having it their way. ®

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