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iPhone App Developer Loses .Me Domain Dispute

Project.me (the company) fails to capture project.me domain name.

Here’s a follow up to a story back in September — iPhone App developer Project.me has lost its attempt to get the domain name Project.me through domain arbitration.

After failing to acquire the domain name from its owner, the company filed a complaint with World Intellectual Property Organization, arguing that the Project.me domain name infringed on its applied-for project.me trademark.

The three person arbitration panel determined (.doc) that the domain’s registrant, Alan Lin, had not registered the domain in bad faith for two separate reasons. First, Lin registered a number of other generic .me domain names during the .me landrush, and it was clear he wasn’t targeting the iPhone app developer. Second, Lin actually applied for the domain prior to Project.me’s existence, even though the domain wasn’t technically registered until afterward:

The Respondent applied for registration of the disputed domain name during the Land Rush application period for the .me domain, on June 26, 2008 – three months before the Complainant’s trademark registration was entered in the German trademark Register, three weeks before the Complainant even applied for its trademark registration, and two weeks before the Complainant even came into legal existence. The Respondent could not, therefore, have been aware of the Complainant’s existence, let alone aware of the Complainant’s trademark rights, at the time the Respondent applied for registration of the disputed domain name.

Another interesting aspect to the case is that the panel found that the Project.me domain name was confusingly similar to the company’s trademark. The panel cited prior cases where panels ignored the top level domain, which would have required it to consider the domain string as “project” instead of “project.me”. But this panel disagreed with prior panels, noting that .me has been marketed as being about “me”, rather than just as a country code identifier, and should be considered. (This could create problems for future panels that wish to ignore the top level domain.)

Lin was represented by domain name lawyer Howard Neu.

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