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What's In A Name? Just Ask Abt

By Anna Marie Kukec
Daily Herald Business Writer
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Abt Electronics Inc. has been using the Web site address, but it wasn't happy about it.

The upscale Glenview appliance and electronics retailer wanted the simpler URL, But that was owned by someone else.

In fact, that alternative site apparently earned click-through fees when surfers got onto it and were re-directed to Abt's competitors, according to documents with the National Arbitration Forum.

Abt filed a complaint with the forum in 2004 against Gregory Ricks, who owned the name. But the company lost. Then Abt discovered more evidence and re-filed the complaint earlier this year. The forum ruled in March in Abt's favor, which then led to an appeal.

"You shouldn't be afraid to fight for your name," said Jon Abt, vice president in charge of e-commerce. "Our family has been in business for more than 70 years and that name means something to us."

Abt experienced cybersquatting, a growing industry where individuals or firms seek to sell or use variations of Web site domain names for a price. But when that practice infringes on trademarked names, such as in Abt's case, the dispute could lead to arbitration or lawsuits.

"Registering domain names has become a lucrative industry and there's nothing wrong with that. But when they intentionally infringe on trademarks, that's when there's trouble," said Kristine Dorrain, Internet legal counsel for the National Arbitration Forum.

The forum, under the U.S. Department of Commerce's Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is one of three providers of domain name dispute cases.

The forum said 1,658 domain name disputes were filed in 2006, compared to 1,369 in 2005. Some disputes have involved famous trademarks, such as George Foreman, Stevie Wonder, Vin Diesel, Louis Vuitton and the New York Yankees.

In Abt's case, the alternative site was owned by Ricks. His legal counsel declined to comment.

Abt settled recently with Ricks out of court and only now has started transitioning its Web site, e-mail system and partner hyperlinks to the site.

"It's tough," said Abt. "The Web is still evolving and is relatively new and difficult when there aren't a lot of rules. It's like the Wild West."

© 2007 Daily Herald, Paddock Publications, Inc.

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