Kodak Wins Russian CyberSquatting Case
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[Moscow, RUSSIA] After more than a year and 20 lawsuits, U.S. camera giant Eastman Kodak finally won a case in a Moscow court against the man who operates the Internet site kodak.ru.
In a decision Kodak called historically important for the Russian Internet, the Moscow arbitration court ruled Wednesday that businessman Alexander Gundul has no right to use the Kodak domain to promote his retail electronics business.
"The ruling is a revolutionary thing," said Yury Vatskovsky, Kodaks lawyer. "Such cases in Russia usually end in defeat for the [plaintiff]."
Gunduls site displays only Kodak cameras and has two disclaimers posted on the bottom that say, "This site is not the site of the Eastman Kodak Company" and "The company Spectrum Service has the right of use to this site."
By clicking on any of the cameras posted on the site, the Web user is taken to another page that gives information about the product and displays a "where to buy" button, which links to photocd.ru the home page of an electronics store called Digital Photo Service that sells everything from videos to computers.
The court ruled that the use of the Kodak domain name to lure customers to Digital Photo Service was an infringement on Kodak and ordered Gundul to stop using the site and pay the U.S. firm 2,600 rubles (US $93) in compensation.
Gunduls lawyer, Sergo Selivanovsky, vowed to appeal. "I am sure that Gundul did not break the law," he said.
But Vatskovsky said he was confident Kodak would take control of the domain name by December, which would stretch the legal odyssey to 15 months.
In September 1999, the arbitration court rejected Kodaks case against the agency in charge of registering dot.ru domain names the Russian Institute for the Development of Public Networks, or RosNIIROS.
At the same time, Kodak was also pleading its case against RosNIIROS with the Anti-Monopoly Ministry. That, too, proved unfruitful. So Kodak changed tactics it decided to go after Gundul himself.
Vatskovsky said inadequate laws and incompetent judges were the reasons the case dragged on for so long.
"In dealing with our case, they looked at a 1992 ruling by the Supreme Arbitration Court concerning the use of trade names, as opposed to domain names, and ruled that if kodak.ru does not indicate the legal status of the company, like Co., Ltd. or Public Company, then one cannot sue," Vatskovsky said.
That 1992 ruling, however, is precisely what Gunduls lawyer is pinning his hopes on. "We have no other laws," he said, "other than the 1992 circular letter of the Supreme Arbitration Court stating that the firms name should necessarily include its legal status.
"The fact that Kodak won just one case does not prove anything. Well see what happens with their other suits," he said.
RosNIIROS spokeswoman Kiran Litvinova called the courts decision a "triumph" for the domain name controlling body.