Web & communication software

UK's Branson Beats Porn Cybersquatter

An Australian man who tried to register a porn domain using the name of Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has been ordered to hand it over to the British entrepreneur.

Sean Truman registered the 'richardbranson.xxx' domain in December, making use of the controversial new 'xxx' porn suffixes that finally went on sale to the public last December after ICANN's board approved the idea in June 2010.

Richard Branson
After Branson complained, the US-based National Arbitration Forum (NAF), which ICANN uses to adjudicate on web domain disputes, has ruled that Truman had no rights to use the domain because of the inevitable public association with its famous namesake.

"The Respondent is using the fame of the Complainant's mark improperly to increase traffic to the website listed at the Domain Name for commercial gain. Such conduct constitutes bad faith," NAF said in its lengthy ruling.

Truman was said to have used richardbranson.xxx as a landing page for links to pay-per-click adult content.

"The domain name is in effect a souvenir, and the respondent has no plans or intentions to host a website using the name," Truman had claimed in his defence.

Advocates of the .xxx domain in the Internet industry will have heaved a sigh of relief that Branson won, by no means certain after it emerged that he had not registered 'Richard Branson' as a trademark.

A defeat would have been a publicity disaster for ICANN, which has gone to some lengths to promote a dispute resolution framework that allows people to use new domains such as .xxx without encouraging the abuse and squatting that critics said was bound to occur.

The criticism remains that Branson has still had to go to some expense to defend himself against a single individual registering a domain in a speculative way at very little cost.

"Virgin Group treats the use of its and Sir Richard's name on the web very seriously and we ensure that there are no unauthorised sites operating that will confuse customers," said Nick Fox speaking on behalf of Branson.

In August, UK registrar Easyspace released figures showing that only 20 percent of the pre-registrations for the .xxx domain were from businesses involved in porn, with the other 80 percent being made by companies simply trying to protect trademarks from abuse.

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