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Apple Threatens iTunes.co.uk Owner 354

Posted by timothy
from the all-wide-eyed-innocence dept.
derxob writes "According to The Register, Apple has accused Benjamin Cohen, the 'dotcom millionare' of being a 'cybersquatter.' He registered ITunes.co.uk on Nov. 7 2000, and Apple trademarked ITunes on Dec. 8, 2000. They have taken him to the UK registry Nominet and are demanding that he give up the domain."
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Apple Threatens iTunes.co.uk Owner

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  • So which is worse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phidoux (705500) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:16AM (#11030145) Homepage
    Cybersquatting or intimidation?

  • hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by REBloomfield (550182) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:19AM (#11030158)
    He knew it was going to be registered, if I went out and registered 'longhorn.co.uk' or something , then i'd expect to get taken to court. I appreciate that's a bad example though, before any one starts jumping up and down :)
  • Re:Go Steve (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:27AM (#11030188)
    RFTA or visit the site. Seems like it's in use to me...
  • by CrackedButter (646746) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:28AM (#11030201) Homepage Journal
    This guy registered "itunes" before Apple did by one whole month and was using the site as well.
  • by Shag (3737) * on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:28AM (#11030204) Homepage
    Hmmm... looks like the itunes.com domain in the US has been registered since 1998. I'm not sure, though, whether it's been Apple's possession all that time. If not, it might be interesting to look at exactly what date it came into Apple's possession. If the date is after November 7, 2000, then yeah, he'd obviously have had to be psychic.

    That said, regardless of who did what first, Apple's almost certainly going to argue that someone else having an "iTunes" domain name in a commercial space in a country where they're offering their product and store, and that person doing something with said domain that pertains to music, is obviously cause for confusion.

    (I dare say it's more cause for confusion than Apple being called Apple and selling music, whilst at the same time the Beatles' music company is called Apple.)

  • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:43AM (#11030270) Homepage
    Of course, if he registered before Apple for that purpose, then it's Apple that's causing confusion regarding his venture, not the other way around, and should be the ones to back down.
  • Dig deeper (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tm2b (42473) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:46AM (#11030283) Journal
    At first glance, this would seem to be an abuse.

    Here's the thing, though - the domain [itunes.co.uk] now points at a site [quickquid.com] that specifically talks about a program "for Apple's iTunes."

    If the domain were used for something completely unrelated to Apple's program, I think Apple would be unreasonable for attacking the registration. However, the domain is instead being used to undermine Apple's specific trademark and as such is, I think, arguably fair game.

    The Register article really errs in not even mentioning this aspect.
  • by Gilesx (525831) * <gil@foresig[ ]inux.com ['htl' in gap]> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:49AM (#11030291) Homepage
    Hmm so Microsoft do this to poor old Mike Rowe, and it's yet another example of the nasty corporate behemouth, yet when Apple do the same thing to someone who registered the domain BEFORE it was a registered Apple trademark, and they're to be praised for their actions?

    What's equally surprising is that it's not as if Apple haven't had their share of trademark issues with the record label of the same name owned by The Beatles.

    So Microsoft and The Beatles bad, Apple good? How on earth did they achieve this demi-god status amongst everyone?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:49AM (#11030292)
    why are the so many people who are incapable of erading anything other than the subject of the article?
  • Re:Not a squatter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sulka (4250) <sulkaNO@SPAMiki.fi> on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @04:54AM (#11030302) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, right.

    Please answer the following question: what made him think people would use the itunes domain address for searching his search engine in the first place? Has he advertised the domain name in public?

    If the only use for the domain has been to catch anyone who thinks there's an iTunes.co.uk service and he hasn't advertised any service under that name, it's quite clear he's been relying on someone launching a service with the name.

    I've seen a ton of sites being captured for the use of directing users to a "search engine". Most of these engines are either blatant marketing ploys or virus-spreading sites. If you've checked the Quick Quid site, you'll see it's mostly the former. If you sign up, you're allowing your address to be sold to third parties who may contact you with just about any means, including messages to your mobile!

    Exactly how is this service described with the name "iTunes"?
  • RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pjt33 (739471) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:03AM (#11030331)
    To register a domain with the intent of selling it back to another already established company or idea is just wrong.
    Indeed. However, there's nothing wrong with registering a domain with the intent of using it, not knowing that a big company is going to release a product with the same name at some point in the future.
  • by Trillan (597339) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:09AM (#11030348) Homepage Journal

    I checked this out while it was still news, before Slashdot ran the story. Then, the site featured a giant picture of the iPod front and center with "GET AN IPOD FREE!" Yup, another stupid scam page.

    No, this guy is not innocent. Best case is that this guy is a lying weasel of a spammer who latched on to the domain name out of thousands. Worst case is he heard a rumor. Either way, once iTunes was publicly announced he clearly violated trademark law in deliberately causing confusion amongst consumers about what the website represented.

    This guy is abusing Apple's trademark to harvest email addresses. Whether or not he got there before Apple registered the site is irrelevant because it *is* registered and he does not have a legitimate use for the name.

    Also, Apple had been working on iTunes for some time before the registration date. Do you think a new product magically appears in a month? (Even thought it was based on SoundJam, it still represented many changes.)

    What has happened is that the guy has realized he will lose, so he went crying to the media and changed the site a little so it isn't so clear a violation. Morons like you ate it up. In a few days, after he think he's milked the free publicity as much as he can risk, he'll sell out to Apple.

    I hope he doesn't -- Apple would end up with his testicles in a jar. But he will. And he'll probably use the opportunity to cry more tears to the media.

  • Re:hmm... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Hinhule (811436) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:09AM (#11030349)
    pff.. you could make the longhorn.co.uk a page about unicorns, rhinos or big penises and claim you never heard of windows longhorn.

    besides it's probably just a working name. I seriously doubt microsoft will name their product so conveniently for the comedians.
  • by lachlan76 (770870) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:24AM (#11030399)
    This guy registered itunes.co.uk. iTunes is an Apple product.

    Mike Rowe registered a site with his own name. I wouldn't feel the same way if Apple was trying to get the domain eyetunes.co.uk.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:38AM (#11030442)
    Basically, prefixing "i" to the name of your site could result in letters/threats/court action from Apple's lawyers in much the same way as prefixing "easy" does from Easy.
  • by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @05:50AM (#11030474) Homepage
    Also, Apple had been working on iTunes for some time before the registration date. Do you think a new product magically appears in a month? (Even thought it was based on SoundJam, it still represented many changes.)

    Not that I have sympathy for the guy (I really don't know enough about the whole issue), but if Apple worked on iTunes for years, knew that they would call it iTunes and didn't register the trademark during the development phase, then they are dumber then a dim light bulb for a billion $ company.

  • Summary Judgement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Dodger (10689) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:07AM (#11030514) Homepage
    A few observations:
    • The site that iTunes.co.uk points to is called QuickQuid.com. Cohen doesn't appear to have invested anything in building a business around the iTunes name.
    • QuickQuid.com appears to be some kind of marketing/promotional business - i.e. they persuade people to sign up with them, in order to receive discounts, special offers, etc. In addition, QuickQuid.com displays adverts - presumably the more times those adverts are viewed/clicked on, the more advertising revenue QuickQuid.com receives. Hence, the more traffic to their site, the more people are likely to sign up and, hence, the more money the company will make.
    • Apple own the iTunes trademark and have invested a lot of money in building a business around that name.
    • The vast, vast majority of people who go to www.itunes.co.uk will do so in the expectation of finding the Apple iTunes service.
    Now, it seems to me that there are two reasons the itunes.co.uk domain is of value to Cohen/QuickQuid.com:
    1. It's a catchy name and would have been a good name for a company doing something related to music and the Internet. However, it appears that Cohen failed to register itunes as a trademark and, now that Apple have done so, he almost certainly can't. So, he's missed out on realising that potential.
    2. It brings traffic to the QuickQuid.com site because of people who are trying to reach Apple's iTunes service in the UK.
    In other words, the domain would have hardly any value if it wasn't for the fact that Apple have spent millions promoting iTunes. Anyone who thinks that Apple should pay a lot of money for the domain because it's "valuable" is essentially saying that Apple should have to pay for something which is only valuable because of money Apple have invested in their trademark. That doesn't seem just to me.

    By capturing traffic to itunes.co.uk, QuickQuid.com is benefitting directly from Apple's marketing of iTunes - in essence, it's a parasite on Apple's marketing budget.

    Finally, let's not forget that Apple have a duty to protect their trademark.

    So, my judgement is as follows:

    1. Cohen should hand the itunes.co.uk domain over to Apple.
    2. Apple should pay Cohen £1,500 (approx $2,500) for costs involved in transferring the domain.
    3. My fee shall be apportioned as follows: Cohen shall pay 1% (£1,000) and Apple shal pay the other 99% (£99,000).
    4. The Clerk of the Court (aka CmdrTaco) shall book me on a six-week Caribbean cruise.
    Case dismissed.


    D.
    ..is for Djudge.

  • by R.Caley (126968) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:22AM (#11030547)
    They registered iTunes.com long before this guy registered iTunes.co.uk

    Which would seem to indicate that they didn't want itunes.co.uk. If they want it now, they can pay him whatever he thinks it is worth.

    His site was not unrelated. It directly references Apple's iTunes.

    Which is evidence for his side of the case. He has a legitimate use for a site called itunes.co.uk -- to talk about iTunes.

    Who was first does not really matter, it belongs to Apple.

    By what logic? They didn't register it, they didn't trademark the underlying name, they did nothing to in any way indicate ownership or desire for ownership. This was their business decision. They are now trying to avoid the consequences of that decision.

    The morally right thing to do is not to Domain-Squat and steal trade secrets.

    What trade secrets have been stolen?

    [slightly rearanged] iTunes.co.uk has to be UK specific as this would only be fair for local CD music distributors.

    In business, this kind of `being fair' is called `operating a cartel'.

  • by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:25AM (#11030562)
    It's almost as bad as a computer company naming themselves after a famous record label.
  • by porkface (562081) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:37AM (#11030590) Journal
    I prefer the First Come First Serve approach of domain name registration to this concept of trademarks carrying over to new markets. Too many companies got away with pissing on the internet for too many years and then were allowed to come in several years later and lay claim to a major stake in it. This only fostered a crappy presence on their part.

    Competition will be spurred if we tell companies they have to look out for themselves in new arenas. Consumers suffer when corporations are allowed to cling to outdated paradigms too easily.
  • by bsartist (550317) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:45AM (#11030613) Homepage
    I'm not from the UK, so I'm not as familiar with the process on your side of the pond. According to the article, "Apple, on the other hand, only had trademark for "iTunes" published in the Trade Marks Journal on 6 December 2000."

    Note that was the date on which the trademark was published - what, if anything, does that say about the date on which it was applied for? How much red tape is involved between application for and approval and/or publication of a trademark?
  • by The MESMERIC (766636) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:48AM (#11030622) Homepage
    and almost as bad as a record company naming themselves after a fruit.
  • Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by franksp (570748) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:18AM (#11030743)
    The world would a much better place if people just used common sense. I went to the site and there's no reason why it should be called 'iTunes'. As a matter of fact, it is redirected to quickquid.com. In my humble opnion, the guy should just give/sell the domain to apple, which would make a lot more sense the itunes.co.uk being the iTunes site.

    A good example of this is Kevin Karpenske, who donated the firefox.com domain to the mozilla foundation.
  • You've lost me (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Peil (549875) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:31AM (#11030796) Homepage
    What does intellectual property licensing have to do with adopting a central currency?
  • by Hope Thelps (322083) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:32AM (#11030798)
    The UK cannot have it both ways... eitehr adopt the Euro, or don't.

    Unless you're ill-informed enough to think that all Euro-zone countries have the same tax regime, what possible relationship could there be between the Euro and anything else you said in your post?
  • by Sanity (1431) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @07:49AM (#11030868) Homepage Journal
    ...I was wondering how long it would take for an Apple fanboy to try to justify this disgusting behavior.

    Firstly, Apple does not have a monopoly over all uses of the word "iTunes", if that were true then Microsoft could sue anyone that criticised Windows for trademark infringement.

    A trademark is only infringed by someone that is using the trademark to cause confusion as to the source or sponsorship of the goods involved. That is clearly not the case here.

    This is (yet another) case of a big company abusing the law to crush the little guy. The fact that it happens to be lovely cuddly Apple doesn't change that.

    (PS. I am a Mac user, but just because I like some of their products doesn't mean I must defend their every action)

  • by toonworld (838479) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @08:56AM (#11031312)
    If you ask me... ok you haven't asked me but I'll tell you anyways! Apple decided to go ahead with the marketing of service. This means they spent hundreds if not thousands of hours developping a marketing plan and registering a TM. This company has been in the computer business for decades. They have been on the internet for a long time too. They already knew how the game worked. Why didn't they register the TM and the domain as soon as they put a name to their marketing plan? Can you say "incompetence" ? I agree it's a cruddy situation and you have someone that has nothing to do with Itunes profiting from the name, but this is what occurs when people don't look 5 inches past their noses.
  • by Dusabre (176445) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @09:23AM (#11031526) Homepage
    I got suspicious when I read about 'publication' date in the article. IAAL so I was interested in the filing date.

    Apple filed for the trademark on 24 October 2000. This is before he filed for the domain - Nov. 7 2000.

    http://webdb4.patent.gov.uk/tm/number?detailsreq ue sted=C&trademark=2249936

    A trademark is registered as of the date of filing under 40 (3) of the UK Trademark Act.

    http://www.patent.gov.uk/tm/legal/tmact94.pdf.

    Hmm.

    Therefore from 24 October 2000 - only Apple can use the trademark in business. Date of publication is not relevant.

    The legal situation is different from that given by the slanted Register article.
  • by WareW01f (18905) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @09:34AM (#11031615)
    Given the huge Apple rumour mill, it is not impossible that the product name was even known a few months before the launch.

    INOLB to my knowledge, this means nothing. If Apple was going to launch it, the name should have been a 'Trade Secret' before the Trademark was applied for. If a trade secret is leaked, it's not a secret any more. The whole 'dibs' mentality does not apply here. If I found out that Apple was going to release an iGlass product and I registered the trademark before them, tough for them! Now if they made it a trade secret and prove that I had access to the info and was under some agreement to keep it under wraps they could try and nail me with something.

    Personally I think this whole trademark crap is out of hand. Even more so when you have these brilliant marketing people coming up with simple schemes like put an 'i' in front of everything, or Micro$oft'$ brilliant 'Word' (at least they tried a bit with Outlook)

    Apple has some good original idea's, but not always. Note how after Apple went after eMachines for their iMac clone (which was some what of a valid case) they go on to come out with an 'eMac', again, brilliant!

    I think someone at Webster needs to claim prior art and end the madness.
  • by catdevnull (531283) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @10:13AM (#11031966)
    Have you looked at the site?

    His business name is "quickquid.com" -- he obviously got wind of Apple's TM registration and decided to squat hoping to sell/extort for big bucks. If this were a pesonal website, I'd probably be booing Apple for picking on little guys. But this site is A) Rubbish and B) not even close to anything to do with the word "iTunes"

    One poster cited that Apple registered the trademark long before this manky twit put up that aweful site. I predict that Apple will win this one.
  • by miu (626917) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @12:35PM (#11033600) Homepage Journal
    Yeah I did read the article and I'm aware that there was no running iTunes service at that point, but there were registered domains (and probably rumors) - at that point it was very easy to do extensive domain listings (even for domains with no dns). Discovering domains registered to large companies and grabbing equivalent or similar names in other registries was actually a mini-industry for a short time.

    I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, but it is entirely possible that he was aware that Apple was working on a music service to be called iTunes and registered the domain as a result - either way is plausible and it will be up to the registrar (and probably ultimately the British court system) to decide if he is squatting or not.

  • Research (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erikharrison (633719) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @03:36AM (#11040226)
    So here is what a little thought and research shows.

    -ThinkSecret, the preeminent Apple rumor site, shows no sign of iTunes rumors in the months surrounding release, including when Apple filed for the trademark. Do we really think that this guy follows Apple more than these guys?

    -There is no sign that Apple has been asked by this guy to buy the domain. The squatting theory seems to hold little water in that regard

    -This guy does have a legit music service, and has a note on the front page about the domain and the conflict with apple

    -QuickQuid.com however, has only been around for a few months. CyberBritain.com the guys main website lists it as a new service.

    -The Wayback machine has no archive of the site. This may be because it didn't point anywhere prior to August.

    My view? The guy is a sleezeball, who probably registered the domain legitimately. I used to work for a small web company, and we had about half a dozen unused domain names - registered for half a dozen reasons, planned projects that never launched, etc. In 2000, it was 'i' everything. iTunes would have been a natural thought - hell APPLE registered itunes.com in '99, years before applying for a trademark, or launching the product.

    Who should get the domain is a bit more of a fuzzy question. But no doubt that this guy has less than pure intentions with the name, now that apple has a same named service.

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