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Microsoft halted in phonetic domain crusade

Mocosoft a step too far in IP madness

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Microsoft has been knocked back in its increasingly bizarre domain name grab by Spanish company Mocosoft.

Domain arbitrator WIPO, meeting in Spain, has decided that Microsoft is not entitled to the domain "mocosoft.com" despite the fact that some of the same letters appear in both companies' names. The site hosts a long list of downloadable applications.

The decision comes on the back off a year-long crusade by Microsoft to take ownership of all and any domains that even sound like its own name. Most famously, Microsoft lawyers descended on 17-year-old student Mike Rowe in January insisting he hand over his domain "mikerowesoft.com". The claim was clearly ludicrous but following heavy press interest, Microsoft went into PR mode and Mike Rowe was dazzled into handing over the domain by a plethora of gifts.

At the time, and despite Microsoft claims otherwise, we reported that the software giant was following the same tactics with a number of other domains. Incredibly, one such person who stood up to Microsoft, Mike Rushton, subsequently had his domain given to Microsoft by WIPO.

"Mikerosoft.net" was too close to Microsoft's trademark and so had clearly been registered in bad faith, the sole panellist Nels T. Lippert decided in April this year. It was just the latest flawed decision in a system virtually designed to provide corporate friendly decisions with little or no justification.

That decision was largely built on a previous decision which, while we have issues with some aspects of it, is far clearer. Tarek Ahmed was forced to hand over "microsof.com" in July 2000. The WIPO sole panellist Frederick M. Abbott gave a lengthy and considered response to the opposing claims and decided in Microsoft favour.

However, that decision was then used (wrongly in our opinion) to justify handing over "Mikerosoft.net" to Microsoft. And in turn the mikerosoft.net decision was then used in an effort to get hold of "mocosoft.com".

But in this case, the WIPO panel - a three-person panel that it cost Mocosoft to introduce comprising Roberto Bianchi, Gabriela Paiva Hantke and Angel Garcia Vidal - did not join the cumulative justification rollercoaster. It decided that "moco" just wasn't phonetically close enough to "micro" to use the "precedent" set by mikerosoft.net.

Mocosoft, naturally, is delighted. But it should never have ended up in this position anyway. Incidentally, the situation is due to get worse. WIPO's efforts to introduce an expanded definition of what it is allowed to hold as trademarked in relation to Internet domains will soon get through the ICANN process.

It has been held up for over a year because large numbers of people refuse to accept WIPO's extensions. ICANN ruled at a Board meeting earlier this month that it needed to set up a temporary committee to break the deadlock.

In the meantime, it is fair to assume that anyone with a domain even remotely similar to "Microsoft" will have its lawyers knocking at their doors. There is at least one case that can put a stop to some of them. ®

Related links

Mocosoft WIPO's Mocosoft.com decision [in Spanish]
WIPO's Mikerosoft.net decision
WIPO's Microsof.com decision

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Mike Rowe goes soft, hands over PR victory
Microsoft prepares Mike Rowe legal exit
Microsoft lawyers threaten Mike Rowe (17)

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