Lastminute wins crucial domain name battle

Site fends off court threat to its brand name in Germany

Lastminute.com has won a crucial legal battle allowing it to continue using its brand name.

The action was brought by German travel company L'tur against Lastminute's German subsidiary, and has been a dark cloud over Lastminute.com for months.

In Germany "last minute" is a generic term referring to cheap travel within two weeks; L'tur even uses the term in its logo. The German company argued Lastminute.com's use of the term was anti-competitive, since users might think that site was the only place to go for such deals.

A regional court in Hamburg threw out the case Friday, stating that there was no law against using a generic term as a domain name. Lastminute said the ruling mainly benefits consumers, since a decision the other way would have restricted Internet competition.

"The court's decision brings clarity to the whole German Internet economy," said Stephan Uhrenbacher, head of northern Europe for Lastminute.com, in a prepared statement.

Generic names have become a staple in the online world, since users' first instinct is often to type the name of what they want into the Web browser. For example, US book e-tailer Barnesandnoble.com purchased the domain name books.com to boost the number of people who visit the site.

Lastminute.com offers travel deals, entertainment and gifts via a system that matches unused inventory with buyers willing to book less than two weeks in advance.

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