BATTLE FOR SA DOMAIN CAUGHT IN A LEGAL WEB

Internet

Government’s battle for control of the internet domain southafrica.com appears doomed to failure as a result of a precedent-setting ruling that a country’s name is not a trademark that a government has the right to own.

Both the SA and New Zealand governments have been in litigation against US-based Virtual Companies, which has registered 33 geographic names as internet addresses. But the New Zealand government has lost its bid to force Virtual Countries to hand over newzealand.com, in a verdict that experts say may jeopardise SA’s case. The decision came from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), the body that arbitrates international domain name disputes.

"The newzealand.com ruling is bad news for SA it would be impossible to prove that the words South Africa are a trademark that belongs to the government," said attorney Reinhardt Buys, a specialist in internet and e-commerce law. Communications department director-general Andile Ngcaba said yesterday that SA would pursue its claim regardless. "We will pursue this matter with Wipo and we believe we have a case."

Business Day via AllAfrica.com