Score One for Betty Crocker

Just days after launching a redesigned Betty Crocker Web site, giant food
company General Mills has won an arbitration case against a
cybersquatter who had registered the bettycroker.com domain, apparently to
win the eyeballs of poor typists for his advertisers.


The dispute was heard by the National Arbitration Forum under
the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) of the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).


The site with the misspelled name was registered to one John Zuccarini, who
reportedly has registered thousands of similarly misspelled domain names,
which have earned him close to a million dollars a year in advertising
revenues, according to the Arbitration Forum.


Most recently, Zuccarini lost the rights to kevinspacy.com in a somewhat
similar dispute decided by the forum
after the Academy Award-winning
actor complained.


However, clicking on kevinspacy.com takes you to a page labeled “I heard
about this!” which displays a copy of the U.S. Constitution, with a Wall
Street Journal address. You also get a pop-up, apparently with Zuccarini’s
opinion on a case involving e-cards.com.


And despite this week’s agreement, a visit to bettycroker.com this morning by
a reporter resulted in a dozen or so full-screen pop-up ads for things such
as casino sites and MP3 sales. The ads come cascading up in a manner similar
to that used by some porn sites, making it difficult to close all the windows.


In the Betty Crocker decision, the arbitration panel wrote: “Respondent
(Zuccarini) argues… that he operates a legitimate business, i.e., a
proactive search-engine portal for his Web site advertising sponsors, and
that there is nothing wrong with its registration and use of unused domain
names. The Panel, however, has concluded that… Respondent may not utilize
close derivations of famous and distinctive trademarks and, thus, profit from
Internet users’ misspelling the Internet destinations they desire… The Panel
has determined that Respondent registered the disputed domain name in bad
faith because he is using it intentionally to attract, for commercial gain,
Internet users to his Web site.”


Retired California Superior Court Judge Irving Perluss decided this case,
noting that the bettycroker.com name was “substantially identical and
confusingly similar” to the General Mills’
mark.


Asked about Zuccarini’s current link to the Constitution, arbitration forum
spokesperson Erin Thompson told InternetNews.com that the Constitution is
“kind of his point” and Zuccarini “doesn’t have to go along with the
decision.”


“The Forum has no substantive authority, and the procedural authority is
controlled by the ICANN Policy and Rules,” said Ed Anderson of the Forum in
response to an e-mail query. “We simply take the pleadings of the parties,
forward them to the arbitrator and forward the arbitrator’s decision to ICANN
and the registrar.”

Betty Crocker was created in 1921 as a symbol of service for the Washburn
Crosby Company, which later became General Mills. Originally associated with
Gold Medal Flour, today the brand is found on more than 200 products
including cake mixes, dinner mixes, potatoes and cookbooks.

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