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Madonna bids to win domain name game

Madonna
Madonna is fighting for the use of the domain name, madonna.com  

By Craig Francis, CNN writer

GENEVA, Switzerland -- First Sting was stung and now the Material Girl is about to find out whether she has been stitched up.

The Internet is the battleground and the domain name madonna.com is the prize up for grabs as a New Jersey pornographer slugs it out with singer Madonna in the hallowed halls of the United Nations in Switzerland.

Dan Parisi, a former asbestos remover who operates an adult entertainment web site, purchased madonna.com in 1998 for $20,000 from a bulk domain name registrar.

Parisi initially used the website to post pornographic material, which attracted the legal attention of internationally renowned singer, actress and entertainer Madonna.

She has filed a complaint the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to reclaim madonna.com.

"Through long, extensive, and continuous use, through extensive advertising and promotion, and through extensive unsolicited media attention, the Madonna mark has achieved enormous fame, has become synonymous in the minds of the public with Madonna," the complaint reads.

"And (it) serves as a symbol of the goodwill and excellent reputation associated with Madonna."

Parisi has countered by claiming Madonna has no more right to the domain name than anyone else with the same name, and has said he plans to donate the internet address to the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Nebraska.

The United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) was expected to announce on Saturday who will be entitled to keep madonna.com but a decision has been delayed until October 25.

Parisi bought the domain for $20,000 in 1998 and has been accused of cybersquatting in the past. He also set up a site critical of corporate America that registered the domain names of scores of companies with the suffix "sucks."

Adult content has since been removed from the madonna.com website and replaced with a broad outline of Parisi's stance on the legal case regarding his ownership of the site.

It reads: "There are thousands of individuals throughout the world who have 'Madonna' as a first or last name, thousands of businesses worldwide who use the name 'Madonna' as their business name and there are 275 worldwide trademarks using the word 'Madonna'.

"There are 87 active websites using "madonna" in thier web address," the madonna.com website states."

Recent cases

Madonna.com is the most recent in a string of high-profile domain name disputes. In May, WIPO ordered the operator of a parody site about Julia Roberts to surrender Juliaroberts.com to the movie star.

But Gordon Sumner, the former Police bassist known as Sting, recently lost his bid to win the rights to Sting.com in an arbitration, which noted that he had not trademarked the name. Madonna's lawyers said Parisi's site represents little more than an "unauthorised, bad faith registration" of her name and trademark.

Under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, trademark owners can only take away names that someone is using "in bad faith."

A sign of bad faith is registering a name "primarily for the purpose of selling" it to a trademark holder.

Parisi has said that he has no plans to profit from the website and has offered it to the hospital in Nebraska.

Although the Roman Catholic hospital has stated it did not wish to become embroiled in a legal battle between a pornographer and an entertainer, hospital spokeswoman Teresa Harms said: "We're hoping to get the name."

The WIPO decision on madonna.com was delayed after it was decided the high profile case warranted three adjudicating panelists instead of the usual one.

Since its launch last December, WIPO's arbitration centre has resolved more hundreds of cases, giving rights to a disputed Internet address to the person, organisation or company with the best rights to the name after a short, inexpensive procedure that can be conducted over the Internet.

Some of the most prominent disputes have involved professional sports organisations, including FIFA -- world soccer's governing body -- which won the rights to Worldcup2002.com, and in the United States, the National Football League got rights to Greenbaypackers.com.



RELATED STORIES:
France Telecom, easyJet lose 'cybersquat' cases
August 28, 2000
Jimi Hendrix family wins domain name
August 8, 2000

RELATED SITES:
World Intellectual Property Organization
Madonna.com
Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital
Madonna's offical fan club

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