Apple Tiff: British Man Says, “I Am Not a Cybersquatter”

LONDON – In a case that echoes similar domain name struggles endured by adult companies and actors, a British technology CEO has been ordered to surrender the domain itunes.co.uk to Apple, founder of the online music store.

Benjamin Cohen, the 22-year-old CEO of CyberBritain Holdings and founder of SoJewish.com, was branded a cybersquatter by Apple when he claimed the domain in 2000.

Cohen said he plans to appeal to Britain’s High Court, pointing out that he owned the British iTunes domain three years before Apple launched the popular music store.

In his dispute with Apple, Benjamin Cohen appealed to Nominet, the UK's leading domain registry service, after refusing to sell the domain for $5,000 to Apple and instead demanding $50,000. Nominet ruled in favor of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, determining that Apple's claim to the domain was more relevant than Cohen's.

Nominet also ruled that Cohen had made an "abusive registration," and that he was using the domain in a way that was confusing to the Apple brand name.

Cohen claims Nominet is biased in favor of large companies and has questioned Nominet's authority to settle disputes related to the ".co.uk" domain suffix.

Cohen will challenge the validity of the ruling by Nominet in an application to the High Court for Judicial Review. He has also requested that a non-Macintosh user be appointed to arbitrate the case, claiming there is a "cult" associated with Apple products, which he said attract "fanatical users."

"I must admit that we were not expecting the decision by Nominet's appointed expert," Cohen said in a statement. "Apple chose to launch the UK brand of iTunes within the UK with the knowledge that we had owned the name for three years before their U.S. launch and four years before their launch within the UK."

Since losing domain name control with Apple, Cohen has reportedly been redirecting itunes.co.uk to his current venture, a shopping site called QuickQuid.com.

In similar name ownership disputes affecting the adult entertainment industry, adult actor Lexington Steele was able to win lexingtonsteele.com back from cybersquatter Russian Communications after appealing to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and Tera Patrick fought with Digital Playground because the company claimed rights to the former contract star’s name via the domain terapatrick.com.

At the time of his domain name victory against Russian Communications, the lawyer representing Steele recounted years spent trying to win back the domain from a company that had profited from Steele's name and likeness.

“Adult entertainment is a billion-dollar industry and these domain names are worth a great deal of money,” Holly Pranger said. “The entertainers who have worked hard to create the recognition and goodwill associated with their performer names should have the right to control how those names and trademarks are used. It is an atrocity that these porn squatters wrongfully profit from them and they should be stopped.”

In addition to the newly reacquired LexingtonSteele.com, Steele also owns LexSteele.com and LexOnBlondes.com, which are administered by BrainCash and SteeleCash.

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