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In the first ruling of its kind, a federal judge in Illinois has said that courts are not bound by the administrative proceedings of the organization established to provide management of the Internet domain-name system. Weber-Stephen v. Armitage, 00 C 1738. Armitage Hardware and Building Supply Inc., a Chicago-based retailer, has been selling the popular Weber barbecue grills over the Internet since 1995. The company sold the merchandise through a Web site whose name would tip off potential purchasers that the grills were likely to be sold in that location: www.webergrills.com. According to earlier news stories, the site attracted potential new customers from as far away as Britain, India and Singapore, and Web sales quickly grew to nearly 10 percent of the hardware company’s business. But, eventually, a dispute broke out between the hardware company and the grill’s manufacturer, Weber-Stephen Products Co., of Palatine, Ill. Weber-Stephen filed a trademark-infringement suit in federal court in Chicago, charging the hardware company with using the Weber trademarks and service marks in a deceptive, confusing and misleading manner. NAMING NAMES Additionally, Weber-Stephen went to the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit, private-sector corporation set up to oversee Web-name assignments and resolve domain-name disputes. Under the organization’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, Weber-Stephen asked ICANN to cancel Armitage’s domain names or to transfer them to Weber. In response, Armitage asked the federal court to stay ICANN’s administrative proceedings and declare them nonbinding. In a ruling on May 3, U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen determined that the court is not bound by proceedings of an ICANN panel. But he indicated uncertainty about just how much deference the administrative procedures should be given. He stayed the federal trademark case pending the outcome of the ICANN decision and said that “at this time we declined to determine the precise standard by which we would refuse the panel’s decision and what degree of deference (if any) we would give that decision. Neither the ICANN Policy nor its governing rules dictate to the court what weight should be given to a panel’s decision.” The ruling is significant because of the volume of dispute-resolution proceedings now before the administrative organization. According to the ICANN Web site, on May 9 there were 518 unresolved cases.

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