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Government Skulduggery Steals NewZealandTM.biz 9 October 2002 Edition
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Most readers will be aware that some time ago now, several new top level domains (TLDs) were activated to augment the existing generics: .com, .net and .org

Perhaps the most sought-after of these new TLDs was .biz which is intended to supplement .com as a TLD for businesses on the Net.

Naturally there was a bit of a gold-rush when the .biz TLD was opened up and as a result there have been a number of disputes over who is entitled to certain names.

One of those names whose allocation was contested turns out to be NewZealand.biz.

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It seems that in the initial rush to secure .biz names, NewZealand.biz was scooped up by iSMER, apparently a UK-based individual or group.

Not surprising really, since quite a few country names in the .com, .net and .org namespace have been taken by individuals or groups which have no specific entitlement.

NewZealand.com is, for example, held by Virtual Countries Inc and NewZealand.net is held by USA.net Inc.

So why am I writing about the ownership of NewZealand.biz today?

Well it seems that The NZ Government have successfully seized this name from its formerly legal registrant by claiming they own the trademark "New Zealand".

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    Well that's not strictly true -- the government claims that it *applied* to trademark the term "New Zealand" in June of last year and that application is still undergoing examination.

    I also notice that the records show that a "Warning Of Abandonment" notice was sent on July 4th in respect to this application.

    In its infinite wisdom, WIPO appear to have upheld the government's claim and has ordered that the name be transferred to the NZ Government.

    Should we be worried by this?

    Well I think so.

    Perhaps the registrants of NewZealand.com, NewZealand.net, NewZealand.co.nz and all the other permutations not currently held by the NZ government are now going to come under scrutiny. Will they also have their paid-up and previously legal entitlements usurped?

    Late Update: it looks as if someone (the NZ Government?) *is* challenging for NewZealand.com.

    And just what's going on with that trademark?

    Trademarks are supposed to be specific to a narrow set of products or services, how can the government trademark the name New Zealand across the entire spectrum of all the many and varied products and services that could be represented on the Net?

    And why was a notice of abandonment sent in respect to their application?

    Is it simply coincidence that the trademark application in question was made on the eve of the launch of the .biz TLD? Will the government, having used that application to wrestle control of NewZealand.biz from its original registrant, now allow the application to lapse - it having served its purpose?

    Something smells here.

    Note clause 3.g in the Procedural History in the WIPO Ruling:

    (g) By e-mail of August 10, 2002, Complainant requested to the Center that "the decision in this matter, when it issues, not be published", and indicated that Respondent had agreed to this request. By e-mail of August†10,†2002, Respondent "confirm[ed] our consent that the decision in this matter, when it issues, not be published"

    Why the call for secrecy? (and who goofed on this one?)

    I certainly wouldn't want to see NewZealand.biz being used for any site that might wish to unfairly capitalise on New Zealand's reputation -- but I also think that using bully-boy tactics and skulduggery to trick/convince WIPO to hand over someone else's property is a somewhat dastardly deed.

    Should we feel pleased that our government is protecting our reputation in cyberspace? Or should we feel ashamed of the tactics it's adopting to do so?

    Will the government go after newzealand.biz.com as well? Or have they already sent in the cyber-SIS to scuttle that site ahead of time?

    Where will it all end? -- and should Danny de Hek be worried about the domain NewZealandNZ.com?

    If you want to have your say on the contents of today's column then please do so. Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the readers' comments section.

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