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May the force be with you…as long as you hold the copyright

 

There has been a recent case in the news where a small online company that sold fancy dress costumes were sued by Disney for the use of a Disney brand name. The company were using ‘starwars.co.uk’ as the domain name for their website.

All costumes on their site were representative of Star Wars characters and there were no other themed costumes produced by them. The domain name had been owned by the company for over a decade, and it was only last year that they had been asked by Disney to surrender it. The parent company of the store also had 6 other very similar domain names which they were also asked to surrender.

Nominet, being the body who oversee domain names, required Disney (as the complainant) to prove that:

  • The complainant has rights in respect of the name involved
  • The current registration by the other party is judged to be “abusive”

After a three month process Nominet ruled in favour of Disney and the fancy dress shop had to relinquish the name.

Since then, Disney has been accused of being a bully and money grabbing.  It is alleged they only want the name as a new film is due to be released and they had not been bothered by the use of the name for the past ten years. So why should they be able to force a small business to stop using a brand that they, Disney, had spent millions of dollars and many years building up to be an instantly recognisable global institution ?

Far from being bullies I would argue that Disney are doing all small businesses a favour by sending a timely reminder that you cannot piggyback off the success of another simply by using their brand name. Rocket science it is not.

 

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