New Bergerber Man

Who Is... New Bergerber Man?

If you’re a trademark holder, and you discover a registered domain name you believe infringes on your trademark, and you want to contest the domain’s ownership without resorting to litigation, where do you turn? To the World Intellectual Property Organization, and its Arbitration and Mediation Center. They’ll assign an Administrative Panel drawn from an international pool of IP experts, solicit filings from you (the Complainant) and the domain name owner (the Respondent), and arrive at a decision. Since 1999, WIPO has arbitrated disputes over thousands of domain names.

Some of the cases are not cut-and-dried. A handful are instances of “reverse domain name hijacking,” where the Complainant is the one attempting to steal the name in bad faith. Others involve two parties who both seem to have a legitimate claim—entities with similar names, a vendor of a company’s products who uses the company’s name in his domain name, a celebrity or corporation trying to stifle a fansite or complaint site. Some of these deliberations involve fine points of trademark law, and a few of the decisions have been controversial.

Most of the disputes, though, deal with blatant cybersquatting or typosquatting—domain names that are similar to existing trademarks, in which the registrant has no legitimate interest, registered with intent to profit (either by selling the domain to the trademark holder or by garnering traffic from confused or clumsy-fingered users). In the vast majority of such cases, the red-handed Respondent doesn’t even bother to file a response.

And then there are these.

When someone who clearly has no legitimate reason for holding a domain name attempts to come up with such a reason, it spells one thing: comedy. In these pages, excerpts from close to 100 cases culled at great personal expense from the WIPO archives, you’ll see some of the outlandish ways people have tried to convince an Administrative Panel they have a right to a domain name. Might the domain name spell something, or be short for something, or mean something in a different language, or in someone’s own private language? Is it for a harmless personal site, or a burgeoning new business? Maybe what everyone thought was a trademark is in fact a generic term (you know, like “Moe Ginsburg”)? Or does it simply happen to be the Respondent’s given name? The squatters have tried it all.

Click on a category to start browsing. Although some cases would fit under more than one category, each case is listed only under the single category that seemed most apt. If you come across an amusing WIPO case not listed here, please send it to bergerber [AT] staggernation [DOT] com. If it’s suitable, I’ll add it to the site and you will be duly credited, unless you prefer not to be.

So, who is New Bergerber Man? He lives in the hearts and minds of entrepreneurial domain-name registrants everywhere, but you can find him here.

The End As I Know It: A Novel of Millennial Anxiety, by proprietor Kevin Shay, is now available in paperback.

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