The News – 03/05/01
Watch Your Trademarks! eReferee Decision Broadens Trademark Protection
for Domain Names
A recent federal court decision bars startup RightSports from
using the word referee not only in its domain names (for example, AskTheReferee.com)
but also in the names of its Web site directories (for example,
This decision reverses an ICANN decision that found in favor (for
a change) of the little guy in a dispute with Referee magazine. The
mag runs a pretty weak site called referee.com, which is little more than a
place to sign up for subscriptions. RightSports developed a full-featured
site called eReferee, the name of which the mag complained was too close to
their trademark. Seems that the mag has a trademark on the use of the word
referee in all publishing.
While I certainly can see the magazine’s point about the
eReferee site name, I believe the court made a tremendous error in barring
the use of the word referee from any part of a URL. This is tantamount to
giving the trademark holder unlimited rights to a common English word.
In their arguments before ICANN, RightSports stated that there
are other instances of the “e” usage. For example, eGolf is not affiliated
with Golf magazine.
Regardless of whether the magazine had a legitimate complaint,
this court decision sends a chill throughout the intellectual property
community, and should worry any business person who uses un-trademarked
words to describe their industry in a Web site. What’s next? Prohibiting RightSports
from using the word referee in the text of their Web site? Keeping you from
using industry terms on your Web site?
If there’s any justice, this ruling will be struck down upon
appeal. Those interested in supporting RightSport’s legal struggle can
donate to their legal defense
By the way, I love eReferee’s tag line: “We rule!”
WAP Browser for PCs
Alert SNS reader Larry Kuhn pointed me to a WAP browser you
can install on your PC and use to view WAP-only sites. It’s at: www.winwap.org. After installing the
browser, you can go to sites such as www.webnum.net,
which I mentioned in the last SNS, and view the content. If you go to
Webnum and type in my phone number, 19525251584, and if the site is up (it is
beta), you should be taken to my wireless page.
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