Alcoholics Anonymous not awarded .org site

The organisation has lost its battle to take control of AlcoholicsAnonymous.org domain name

Owners of the AlcoholicsAnonymous.org Web site have fended off a bid by the international organisation to snatch the domain name, saved in part by a wide-ranging disclaimer on the front page.

Saying the site displayed an adequate warning "which goes much further than an ordinary disclaimer," the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center said in a recently released decision that it is allowing the owners of AlcoholicsAnonymous.org to keep the name.

The site, which says it once hosted porn, now bills itself as an unofficial AA forum where people can, among other things, sign up for alcoholism-related lists or an AlcoholicsAnonymous.org email account.

Alcoholics Anonymous had filed a claim with the WIPO board, which has the right to transfer domain names from one party to another, alleging the site's owners were violating the organisation's trademark and using the site in bad faith. AA also accused the site's owners, who used a fictitious name, of providing false information when registering the site.

The board, however, sided with the current owners on 28 December, saying they posted adequate notification that the site was not affiliated with AA. Furthermore, the board noted, AA encourages anonymity and a decentralised structure.

Domain name dispute resolution boards side with trademark holders in a majority of cases, making this decision somewhat unusual.

The panel did find the site's owners acted in bad faith by trying to sell the domain name, but the action was not enough to warrant a transfer.

However, the board warned against extrapolating this decision to other cases.

"It has not been easy for this panel to reach a decision and so this panel would be reluctant to have this decision stand as precedent for others unless the unique circumstances were almost precisely duplicated," the WIPO board wrote in its decision.

For everything Internet-related, from the latest legal and policy-related news, to domain name updates, see ZDNet UK's Internet News Section.

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