Gabor Varga seems to think that he is a legitimate businessman, whereas trademark holders and their legal teams would probably have a very different view of his activities. In fact, if the WIPO decisions against Varga and his partner Jozsef Petho are anything to go by they could be safely classified as cybersquatters.
In the history of the IE namespace there have been a grand total of five cases that were taken to WIPO under the dispute policy. Of those 40% involved Varga and Petho, who are now trading as FirstPlex Ltd. If you look at the actual list of disputes lodged with the registry you’ll also notice that there were claims lodged by Google for typosquatting that did not go as far as a WIPO decision.
In an interview on Irish national radio earlier today representatives of industry and Mr Varga talked about the article that appeared in last Sunday’s edition of the Sunday Times, which I mentioned earlier.
The article, which was thoroughly researched by Mark Tighe, did not pull punches and why should it have? However Varga came across as mortally offended by the whole affair.
You would have to be insane, or have a very loose grip on reality, to find plausible the very idea that someone could register adidas.ie without considering the brand name, which the company has built up since its formation in 1949. But that’s just what was claimed in the WIPO case
However Varga is totally unashamed and actually claims that he’s “not registering other people’s domains”.
This last comment was given in reply to the interviewer asking if Varga was “the Del boy of the internet” (see here or here for an explanation of the reference)
Varga went on to say that he considered the intellectual property owners to be negligent.
That’s interesting. Unless I’m sorely mistaken isn’t there an entire body of case law that would show otherwise? While there may not be an specific law on the Irish statute books to cover this form of intellectual property rights infringement, there are laws that would encompass it. And even if that were not the case Irish courts may draw influence from foreign caselaw. That being so it would come as little surprise to me if reference were made to the Lanham Act, under which companies such as Microsoft have sued squatters in the past, should someone decide to pursue Varga or Firstplex at a civil level instead of via WIPO.
Companies invest millions in building up their brands, as one of the panelists on the interview this morning, Joe White from Gandi, reminded listeners. Aren’t they entitled to some level of protection?
If cybersquatting were a legitimate activity then it would have the backing of the domain parking companies, such as Sedo, Afternic, DomainSponsor et al. But it doesn’t, because it simply isn’t.
Of course it’s easy to confuse domaining with squatting.
A lot of businesses in Ireland (and elsewhere) are still getting to grips with the internet.
They haven’t realised how important the choice and use of a domain name can be in driving sales, so they might not fully appreciate analogies posited by industry insiders that regard domain names to be on a par with physical real estate.
However if you were to read Kieren McCarthy’s book on sex.com you’d change your mind quite quickly!
It’s easy to confuse building up a large portfolio of domains with actual squatting and trademark infringement.