Nokia has won the first .me.uk domain name dispute after the registrant, who claimed that Nokia was his nickname, was found to have registered a raft of other well-known brands.
The .me.uk domain was launched by .uk registry Nominet in January with the intention of providing domain names for individuals. The outcome of this first case of disputed domain names indicates that even in the .me.uk domain, individuals do not necessarily have free reign to register common brand names in bad faith.
Not only had Naqi Jawad from East London registered nokia.me.uk on 15 January 2002, but also sony.me.uk, bmw.me.uk, vodafone.me.uk, orange.me.uk and nissan.me.uk among others.
Nokia had previously sent Jawad a letter, informing him of its rights to the name and asking him to transfer the name, offering to reimburse him any reasonable expenses he may have had when registering the domain name.
In its complaint to Nominet, which runs the dispute resolution procedure for .me.uk, Nokia claimed the registration of nokia.me.uk, on 15 January 2002, was an Abuse Registration. Philip Roberts, the barrister who adjudicated the dispute procedure, agreed.
"As Lady Bracknell might have put it," said Roberts, "to have registered one domain name corresponding to the brand name of a major mobile telecommunications company may be regarded as a misfortune; to register two looks like carelessness. To register four -- plus the trade marks of two prominent automobile companies and a major electronics company -- looks very much like abusive registration."
According to Nokia, Jawad had written a letter claiming that he registered the domain name in question because his nickname is "Nokia," and asked the company to make him an offer. However, Jawad did not assert this in his correspondence with Roberts. Even if he had, it might not have made much difference.
"I doubt that the Respondent (Naqi) is quite so polynomial as to attract the nicknames 'Vodafone', 'Orange', 'Virgin', 'BMW', 'Nissan' and 'Sony'," said Roberts in his decision. "I infer that this is the most likely reason why the 'nickname' defence was not formally asserted in the Response and I attach little weight to it."
Given the prominence and renown of the brand names Sony, BMW, Vodafone, Organge, Virgin and Nissan, said Roberts, together with the inherent improbability of all such names being registered innocently, he said he was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Respondent was "engaged in a pattern of making abusive registrations."