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Australian Airline Wins Domain Name Court Case

20 December 1999

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Australia's largest airline, Qantas Airways, has wrestled control of an Internet domain name from a cybersquatter after it won an important court case in New Zealand.

The domain name was registered by the Domain Name Company Ltd, a company that trades in domain names, in 1996, since when it has offered to sell it on to Qantas.

Qantas said it originally tried to negotiate with the company, but was forced to take the matter to the courts.

Last week, the New Zealand High Court ordered the Domain Name Company Ltd to deregister the domain name. Qantas will now be able to register itself.

In his finding, Justice Anderson said "… the deliberate blocking of the lawful exploitation of goodwill by Qantas through registration effectuated for that purpose or with that consequence is a fraudulent appropriation of part of the goodwill attaching to (the Qantas) name."

He went on to suggest that companies like the Domain Name Company Ltd were deliberately trying to block other companies from benefiting from their well-known name or brand online.

"The most likely purpose in registering the name of such a well known entity is to block that entity's lawful exploitation of its goodwill through the use of the Internet," he said. "It is important to appreciate, of course, that the domain name is the gateway to exploitation and the defendant's registration has blocked the gate. Such registration is … an instrument of fraud."

Justice Anderson also found that the Domain Name Company Ltd was guilty of passing off and also guilty of, in trade, engaging in conduct that was misleading or deceptive or was likely to mislead or deceive.

Qantas was pleased with the court's decision, saying that the airline was committed to protecting its name and goodwill in cyberspace.

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