GavelI’ve mentioned a few domain name disputes here in the last few months. Another has just caught my eye. It involves that online behemoth, Google, and a chap called Jan Jeltes from Eden Hills near Adelaide in Australia.

Jeltes registered 26 domain names, all of which contain the term Googler. They included:

  • businessgoogler.com
  • domaingoogler.com
  • googlegoogler.com (this one in particular seems to be asking for trouble!)
  • travelgoogler.com
  • newsgoogler.com

Unsurprisingly, Google took a dim view of these domains and lodged a complaint on 1 July. It was dealt with by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

At the time the dispute was lodged, most of these domains were pointing to a blog containing comments on the news. However, domaingoogler.com led you to a site offering several domains – including a couple of disputed ones – up for sale.

The decision

The WIPO panel made its decision on 20 August and found in favour of Google. You can read the full text of the decision here.

What I found interesting about the dispute is that one of Jeltes’ key arguments centered on the idea that the term Googler is in the common vernacular – basically, that we use it to describe somebody who uses Google’s search engine.

And as the decision explains, that idea is supported, to an extent, by the fact that the word Google has found its way into various dictionaries, including the OED. It means to search for something on Google (no surprise there really).

Unfortunately for Jeltes, the important thing was whether the domains in question were confusingly similar to Google’s trademark. Google; Googler – the panel had no problem spotting a similarity.

Jeltes didn’t help his cause by offering some of the domains for sale either. It gave weight to the argument that they were registered for the sole purpose of selling them on at a profit, and not to build a legitimate business or website.

In all, the dispute decision comes down clearly on Google’s side. And to be honest, I don’t really see how it could’ve gone any other way.

The lesson here? As always, be very careful about infringing trademarks or registering domain names which are similar to another company’s.

Even if you do it by accident, you could still have to give the domain up. If you’ve already built a successful website at that URL, having to change addresses is a real pain.

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