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Facebook cybersquatter stitched up by own Facebook account

Non one believed his 'generic dictionary word' defence

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The man who registered the domain name facebook.info has lost a cybersquatting case, after Facebook used his own eight-year-old Facebook account as evidence against him.

Occasional web entrepreneur Igor Dolgalev registered the facebook.info address on 25 September, 2004, while he was still a student at Cornell and Facebook itself was barely six months old, according to a recent World Intellectual Property Organization decision.

Defending himself against Facebook's cybersquatting claim, filed under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, Dolgalev claimed that at that time he bought the domain, the word “facebook” was a “generic dictionary word” for university campus directories rather than a well-known brand.

It was not until 2005 that Justin Timberlake persuaded Mark Zuckerberg to drop the “the” from the social network's URL. Snapping up facebook.com cost Zuck and his backers a cool $200,000 back in 2005 – but in 2004 it was still found at thefacebook.com.

Dolgalev argued that had he wanted to cybersquat Facebook, he would have registered thefacebook.info, which he claimed was still available at that time.

But Facebook filed numerous press articles with WIPO that it said proved that the site was nevertheless already known widely as simply “Facebook” as early as April 2004.

Dolgalev must have known about the site's fame even then, Facebook argued, because he set up his own Facebook profile – which is currently publicly viewable – on 23 April 2004.

That fact, which Dolgalev had a hard time disputing in his defence case, was enough for WIPO arbitration panelist Robert Badgley to view the rest of his story with “suspicion”.

“The chief problem for Respondent [Dolgalev] is that the Panel does not believe his story,” Badgley wrote. “Respondent lost a tremendous amount of credibility by failing to rebut the simple and important allegation that he had joined Facebook on April 23, 2004, five months before registering the Domain Name.”

He concluded that Dolgalev had no rights to register facebook.info as a “generic dictionary word” and that the registration must have been made in bad faith. That was enough for Facebook to win its UDRP case, meaning facebook.info will shortly be transferred to its ownership. ®

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