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US court overturns WIPO judgement in domain dispute

A cybersquatting trial has closed in the United States. The proceedings centered on the VisitQatar.com domain name, which was the subject of fierce dispute for two years. Initially, the domain was registered in 2004. However, the Qatar National Tourism Council started to develop its program to promote the country, and the Visit Qatar trademark only in 2015. And a year later, in 2016, the domain was purchased by Azerbaijani citizen Teymur Mehdiyev, who launched a website there to offer tours to Qatar.

From the beginning the case was complicated. Mehdiyev could have been unaware of the activities of the Qatar National Tourism Council and his use of the domain could not be regarded as unlawful. On the other hand, he obtained the right to manage the domain later than the National Tourism Council launched its activities. Having considered Qatar’s complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) a board of three WIPO arbitrators finally declared the situation cybersquatting, although Mehdiyev had hired noted attorney John Berryhill to represent him.

Mehdiyev then went to court to contest the WIPO decision. This time he won. Ironically, Judge Daniel D. Domenico turned to the initial meaning of the word “squatting” and drew parallels between the domain name and property ownership to support his decision. “There is no dispute here that Mr. Mehdiyev’s predecessor registered the name prior to the council’s trademark becoming distinctive, and thus was not cybersquatting. And there is no dispute that Mr. Mehdiyev legally acquired the previous owner’s legal interest in the domain. Acquiring another’s legal interest in property (intellectual or otherwise) is not squatting,” as quoted by the Domain Name Wire report.

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