Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Can a cat own internet domain name?

Very interesting blog Opinio Iuris recently discussed very bizarre internet domain dispute. The case involves a claim to the domain name "mymorganstanleyplatinum.com" brought by Morgan Stanley against respondent "Meow, Respondent Penelope Cat of Nash DCB, Ashbed Barn, Boraston Track, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, WR15 8LQ, Great Britain."

Below is the key section of the opinion holding that a cat cannot in good faith own a domain name that is confusingly similar to the name Morgan Stanley:

Respondent maintains that it is a cat, that is, a well-known carnivorous quadruped which has long been domesticated. However, it is equally well-known that the common cat, whose scientific name is Felis domesticus, cannot speak or read or write. Thus, a common cat could not have submitted the Response (or even have registered the disputed domain name). Therefore, either Respondent is a different species of cat, such as the one that stars in the motion picture “Cat From Outer Space,” or Respondent’s assertion regarding its being a cat is incorrect.

If Respondent is in fact a cat from outer space, then it should have so indicated in its reply, in order to avoid unnecessary perplexity by the Panel. Further, it should have explained why a cat from outer space would allow Mr. Woods to use the disputed domain name. In the absence of such an explanation, the Panel must conclude that, if Respondent is a cat from outer space, then it may have something to hide, and this is indicative of bad faith behavior.

On the other hand, if Respondent’s assertion regarding its being a cat is incorrect, then Respondent has undoubtedly attempted to mislead this Panel and has provided incorrect WHOIS information. Such behavior is indicative of bad faith....

Respondent cites Morgan Stanley v. Michael Woods, FA 604103 (Nat. Arb. Forum Jan. 16, 2005), in which the Panel found that Complainant had failed to prove bad faith registration and use. But that case must be distinguished from the present case, because in that case the Respondent was Mr. Woods, and not a cat or someone who has misled the Panel by pretending to be a cat.

The Panel finds that Respondent’s assertions that it is a cat provide sufficient evidence to conclude that the Respondent registered and is using the disputed domain name in bad faith. And this despite the fact that the Panel, unlike Queen Victoria, is amused.

The backstory is that one Michael Woods, the owner of the cat, is a business consultant who does management seminars for small and medium-sized businesses regarding the failure by large companies to register obvious domain names. As the case notes, "[h]aving the domain name registered by me allows Mr. Woods to introduce some humor into his presentations."

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