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Garry Kasparov understands strategy. Fortunately for Kasparov, so do his lawyers at Latham & Watkins. When it was discovered that the domain name www.kasparov.com was being auctioned off, the attorneys for the world champion chess player decided to act. But rather than go to court, they used online arbitration, a potentially quick and effective weapon against cybersquatters, those people who register names with the sole purpose of selling them for profit. Since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet’s oversight board, introduced its dispute resolution system last December, more than a thousand cases have been filed. The board has approved four different arbitration providers to handle the disputes. The providers can force domain-name holders to transfer the name to the trademark owner. That’s usually what happens. Roughly 70 percent of the proceedings have favored the trademark holder. Arbitrators cannot, however, award money damages. For that relief, trademark owners must still go to court. Under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, adopted by ICANN last August, domain-name registrants must participate in the process if someone files a claim that alleges that a domain name is infringing on a trademark or is being used in bad faith. Kasparov’s attorneys, Richard Conn and David Barrett, believed that they had a clear-cut case. Jack Shulman, who had been in possession of the name since 1996, was asking for at least $28,000 in return for “constructing” a site for Kasparov. “Garry Kasparov: you have no honor!” Shulman wrote on the site. (Shulman’s lawyer refused to comment.) Barrett and Conn selected the National Arbitration Forum, whose roster of arbitrators consists largely of retired judges. “We thought that gave us the best shot at arbitration that was the closest thing to an official court action with judicial oversight,” explains Barrett. For many lawyers, the ICANN arbitration process has been a godsend. Scott Whiteleather is the vice president of CMG, a company that represents at least 200 celebrity names. CMG’s first success was retrieving MarilynMon-roe.com in 1996, after filing a suit in Indiana state court. Back then, Whiteleather recalls, suits were based on right-of-publicity and trademark issues. “They were expensive and difficult … Marilyn probably took three years,” he says. (The suit was eventually settled out of court.) Now, he often avails himself of arbitration. The average cost of filing a complaint through ICANN is $750 plus attorney fees, which should be much lower than for a full-blown court battle. The Latham lawyers downloaded the National Arbitration Forum’s complaint form, filled it out and returned their complaint and exhibits, all via e-mail. “Everything from the submission of the complaint to the decision occurred in cyberspace,” Conn marvels. They also delivered a three-inch hard copy because of the large number of exhibits. “We knew we had to take care of everything in the initial complaint, because once you file it, that’s it,” explains Conn. After receiving all of the pleadings, the arbitrator has two weeks to make a decision. On May 30, he directed that kasparov.com be transferred to the chess champion. The lawyers at Latham were pleased not only with their success, but also with the system’s efficiency. Says Barrett, “There is rarely an opportunity for litigation to take six weeks.” Louis Touton, general counsel for ICANN, understands Barrett’s enthusiasm. “There is the desire to have the proceeding happen quickly. … Since it’s on the Internet, it should make use of the Internet,” Touton says.

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