Intellectual property is a term that covers all kinds of brainwork products, whether they belong to artistic, scientific, literary, business or any other sphere of human activity. Intellectual property rights of the owner of a trademark or any kind of copyrighted production are protected by law as any other rights, as they presuppose certain benefits from the authorship. Unless inventors are guaranteed that products of their mental activity are legally protected by the patent system, they lose motivation to work further and produce results in the chosen direction (Whitman & Mattord, 2011).
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The World Intellectual Property Organization ensures that the intellectual property right holders can at their sole discretion allow or prohibit reproduction of their works in all possible forms, including performances in front of the audience, translation into foreign languages, screen or literary adaptations, and others. Nowadays, it is universally recognized that intellectual property is highly valuable and must be safeguarded. This attitude causes an enormous increase in litigation in this field (Easttom & Taylor, 2011).
However, the violation of the intellectual property right is not always a clear-cut issue: in particular cases, it is rather questionable which party’s actions are legitimate. The case of Guru Denim Inc. vs. Abu-Harb presents one of the most demonstrative examples. In July 2013, the plaintiff, Guru Denim Inc. (a company headquartered in Vernon, California, filed a complaint against Ibrahim Ali Ibrahim Abu Harb, a promoter of the Islamic religion, accusing him of using the domain name identical to the corporation’s registered mark in bad faith (Hosp, 2013).
The respondent, who asserted to be a devoted Muslim, launched his site www.truereligion.com in 1998 as a religious blog. Several years later, in 2002, Guru Denim Inc. registered True Religion as a trademark for its jeans, which quickly rose to popularity. Abu-Harb, who immediately saw an opportunity to derive profit from this, placed several links to True Religion Jeans on his website in order to confuse potential customers and to divert them from the competitor, concurrently attracting additional traffic to his own site. Later, he decided to put up www.truereligion.com for sale charging an exorbitant price for it (Cyberlaw, 2013).
Abu-Harb claimed that he had used the domain name for several years before True Religion Jeans trademark was registered. He also assured that the company changed the name of the brand just a couple of days after filing the complaint. Moreover, the respondent submitted that he had legitimate interests under the given circumstances and had never tried to confuse users that his site had any relation to Guru Denim Inc. (Donahey, 2013).
The Court decided for the defendant as it was clear that he had the right to use the domain name in order to pursue his financial goals. Since it was impossible to prove that the name was registered in bad faith, the complaint of Guru Denim Inc. was dismissed. Consequently, Abu-Harb could persist in his intention to sell the domain for any price he considered reasonable. True Religion sued him once more in Boston with an aim to prevent the creation of similar domain names. However, it failed to prove the violation of the American anti-cybersquatting law. The case was ruled in Abu-Harb’s favor (Levine, 2015).
This dispute had far-reaching effects for other business organizations as it solved the issue of internet domains ownership. If Guru Denim Inc. had won the case, it would mean that other companies could easily force individuals to give up domain names that were identical to their brands, no matter if they had been registered earlier.
The outcome of the whole story leads to the conclusion that having a trademark does not imply monopolization of all the domain names that coincide with it.
Cyberlaw. Trademark law. WIPO arbitrators uphold conjunctive view of bad faith under the uniform domain name dispute resolution policy. Guru Denim Inc. v. Abu-Harb, case no. D2013-1324, Administrative Panel decision (WIPO arbitration & mediation ctr. 2013). (2013).
Donahey, M. S. (2013). Administrative Panel decision. Guru DenimInc. v. Ibrahim Ali Ibrahim Abu-Harb. Case No. D2013-1324.
Easttom, C., & Taylor, J. (2011). Computer crime, investigation, and the law. Boston, MA: Course Technology.
Hosp, D. R. (2013). United States Distric t Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Levine, M. G. (2015). Trademarks, domain names, and cybersquatting.
Whitman, M. & Mattord, H. (2011). Readings and cases in information security. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.